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Restoring Jay Leno’s Car Collection with a Waterjet

Somewhere in Southern California there’s a place where Jay Leno’s collection of cars resides. For many car enthusiasts, having a collection like Leno’s is nirvana. Leno’s collection is eclectic - he has very rare and unique vehicles to ones many collectors might own. It ranges from cars, trucks and motorcycles such as a Dobel steam car along with several Stanley Steamers to a McLaren F1 supercar. Each one is driven, and most go fast.

To keep his collection running and in perfect shape, Leno uses a Calypso Hammer-head Waterjet that uses a 5 ft. by 10 ft work table (the company is now owned by Jet Edge Inc.), and uses a KMT Waterjet 50-hp Streamline Plus intensifier (pump). He also has Lincoln Electric welders, and a Scotchman iron worker, along with sheetmetal fabrication equipment found in many body shops.

A problem with collecting very rare cars is that many of them no longer have parts available. That’s where sheet-metal-fabrication equipment and machine tools play a part in the restoration of Leno’s cars. Without this equipment, or the people who know how to use it, these cars, trucks and motorcycles would be lost to history. With his equipment and crew, Leno can bring back these vehicles to better-than-new condition. What Leno likes about his waterjet is that he can cut any material with it – glass, foam, steel or ceramic. He says there’s no toxic materials produced by the waterjet cutting action or heat distortion that could warp metals.

A passion for vehicles Leno’s passion for cars started when he worked at a dealership as a teenager. He says he actually got into show business because the salary paid him well enough to own the vehicles he loved. So he looks at show business as somewhat a means to an end to own these vehicles.

At one time, he had a small garage that eventually had an overflow of cars. Next he rented space without heat or A/C, but it was uncomfortable to work in. When he finally made enough money, he bought a building in Southern California to house his expanding collection that has now moved into four buildings all next to one another.

At first look, Leno’s collection has no theme that other collections might have. But he does have one. Leno likes cars of technical and historical interest, ones that were ahead of their time. He also likes orphaned cars or ones that might have been marketing failures but had unique engineering.

Two of Leno’s favorite manufacturers are Dusenberg and Bugatti. Although Leno likes working with his hands, he says he’s not a mechanic or machinist. When he gets in over his head with a vehicle, he has a crew of mechanics that can step in to help out. In fact, Leno’s shop personnel have actually built one-of-a-kind cars in the garage with help from outside experts. Several years ago, the shop built a stainless-steel bodied, jet-powered car – great for a Sunday cruise or roasting hotdogs on its exhaust. But Leno likes to think of himself as just a regular car guy who is lucky enough to afford these types of unique vehicles.

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