Oprah, Ellen, Leno and more — who drives what, where and when
by James R. Healey, AARP, August 21, 2018|Comments: 0
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High-profile folks are drawn to interesting, sometimes odd, cars. That's logical, says entertainer and car buff Jay Leno: “That’s what show people do. They show off.” Leno, former host of NBC’s The Tonight Show, and more recently his own cable show, Jay Leno‘s Garage, told us he never meant to be a car collector. “I just bought cars I liked and never sold them.” His first was a 1934 Packard that he bought from Phil Hill, the race driver, 30-some years ago. Now an airport hangar is his garage.
Here’s a look at some cars that Leno and other celebrities drive. Like all stars, some shine brightest in their own galaxies while others’ light seems universal. But all are car folks and people of great accomplishment.
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Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson
Trucks. What else for a granite-like former wrestler who's now a movie and TV star? The Rock (his pro wrestling nickname that has stuck) is known for The Fast and the Furious movies, among others, and the HBO hit Ballers. He’s a Ford F-150 man and owns many, according to the company, including the high-performance Raptor model. In fact, he presented his cousin Tanoai Reed, who also is his stunt double, a customized crew-cab Ford pickup earlier this year. A video shows them hugging and captures a few tears of joy.
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The CEO of General Motors — the first woman to boss a major car company — says she fell in love with cars when she was just 10. She wanted a Pontiac Trans Am as her first ride, but after her mom weighed in, young Barra got a Chevrolet Chevette. Now, her list of personal cars “varies, but we keep a ’69 Camaro SS Convertible and a ’70 Trans Am that my husband and son are currently restoring,” she tells us. As CEO, she can drive anything she wants from the company fleet. But there's no way she will name a favorite. “That’s like asking me to choose a favorite child!”
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Still a prolific and energetic touring musician at age 77, the cofounder of the Byrds and Crosby, Stills and Nash tells us that if he only could have one car, it’d be his Tesla Model S. “I’ve owned most of the really good kinds of cars — 6.9 Mercedes sedan, 750 BMW, Ferrari, a ’67 Mustang with a pretty radical motor.” About once a week, he wheels around in a 1940 Ford pickup with “a really, really cherry-red paint job” and V-8 engine he helped build. Long relationship: He displayed it at “The Cars and Guitars of Rock ‘n’ Roll” exhibit at L.A.’s Petersen Automotive Museum in 2001.
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She’s a race driver, the first female board member of the Saudi Arabian Motor Federation and the Saudi representative for the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) Women in Motorsport Commission. Yet she never drove on a Saudi racetrack until this year, when her home country lifted its ban on female drivers. Her celebration lap at the Reem International Circuit in Riyadh was in a Jaguar F-Type — Jag having been a backer of female drivers in the country and she being a lover of fast machines. She said afterward: “A Jaguar F-Type ... the ultimate car to roar around the track.”
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What to drive? He houses “130 cars, 93 motorcycles and a menagerie of engines, spare parts and memorabilia,” the Los Angeles Times tallied in 2014. But, he tells us, “I have a  Model T that I use to get around L.A., which is perfect because nobody can steal it. They can’t figure out how to drive it. It only goes 40 miles per hour, which is perfect for L.A. And if you scrape it up, a new fender is $175.” Three-foot pedals, a lever on the driver’s left and a throttle lever on the steering column make the Tin Lizzie a challenge to operate.
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The popular comedian qualifies as a Porsche fanatic. His collection has featured models from the 1950s to the 2010s, including a rare 1955 Porsche Spyder like the one that heartthrob actor James Dean crashed fatally in 1955. In 2016, Seinfeld sold 17 collectibles for about $22 million at a Gooding & Co. specialty car auction in Florida. It wasn't a fire sale, Seinfeld said in a statement. “My enthusiasm for this pursuit remains quite insane, and I am very fortunate to have many other cars I get to look after.”
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The comedian and host of The Ellen DeGeneres Show is another Porsche lover. “Oh, yeaaah,” her office confirmed, without surrendering specifics. She's especially fond of the 911 and its variants. In fact, one article noted a paparazzo's photo of Ellen and her actress wife, Portia, cruising in a Ferrari. Not a Porsche? Must have been a rental, the article speculated. And no, Ellen doesn’t gift Portia only with Porsches. A video clip from her TV show shows her handing Portia the keys to a rare Land Rover Defender as a Christmas present.
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The TV and movie star and publisher seems better known for cars she’s given away than for those she drives herself. Recent reports say she’s a Tesla Model S fan. And she has a VW Beetle and a Bentley Continental GT (close to $200,000), according to NetworthBro.com, a celebrity wealth-tracking website. She flabbergasted audience members at a 2004 taping of her TV show by giving all 276 of them a new Pontiac G6. Winfrey famously proclaimed, “Everybody gets a car!” And a tax bill. It would cost each about $7,000 to keep the $28,500 car, because it would be considered income. In a similar 2010 giveaway of the then-unreleased 2012 VW Beetle, the show said it would pay the taxes this time around.
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Gabriel “Fluffy” Iglesias
The 20-year veteran of stand-up comedy and films is just 42 — too young to be a reformed (or surviving) hippie. Yet he has some 30 restored VW Transporters (aka buses), the official vehicle of the ‘60s counterculture movement. “I have a huge fascination with Volkswagen buses. Since that was my first car, I always wanted to have it back,” he told Autoblog.com in an interview. That, despite an array of other cars he’s had, including two Hummers and a 2017 limited-edition replica of the Smokey and the Bandit Trans Am driven by Burt Reynolds in the 1977 movie. Iglesias appeared on an episode Jay Leno’s Garage and contemplated, “Who says I can only have one bus?”
PHOTO BY: Rubens Alarcon / Alamy Stock Photo
Rocker Alice Cooper, 70, bought his first car when he was in high school — a ’66 Fairlane GT 390 in canary yellow with black racing stripes — and he’s been hooked ever since. Among his current stable of rides, he has a white ’63 Avanti and a 2015 convertible Hemi Barracuda in lime green. He told AARP The Magazine recently, “No matter how old you get, you never lose the feeling that cars are freedom…. And your car, especially your first car, ends up being your best friend.”