Comedian, former talk-show host and car enthusiast Jay Leno, award-winning automotive designer Peter Brock and 65 classic cars will be the featured guests when the Audrain Automobile Museum holds its biggest fundraiser of the year on Sept. 1 at Salve Regina University’s Ochre Court.
NEWPORT — Comedian, former talk-show host and car enthusiast Jay Leno, award-winning automotive designer Peter Brock and 65 classic cars will be the featured guests when the Audrain Automobile Museum holds its biggest fundraiser of the year on Sept. 1 at Salve Regina University’s Ochre Court.
In the past year, Leno, who will be the keynote speaker at the event, has visited both of the museum’s storage facilities — one on Aquidneck Island and one in Virginia — according to Executive Director David de Muzio.
“He stops by whenever he has a gig nearby,” he said. “He’s well known for making extra time when he’s traveling to see car collections.”
Leno, the former host of NBC’s “The Tonight Show” for more than 20 years, now stars in his own series about motor vehicles called “Jay Leno’s Garage.” His personal collection is estimated to include more than 150 cars and motorcycles.
De Muzio said Leno knows a “tremendous amount of all the different eras of cars,” and his collecting habits are similar to the museum’s collection.
He collects quite broadly, has about the same size collection as the museum and is hands-on with the restoration, not afraid to dirty his hands, de Muzio said.
“If he wasn’t a TV personality, you would know him as a really interesting car guy,” he said. “He seems to really enjoy seeing what happens locally.”
Brock is best known for designing the Cobra Daytona Coupe and the first lines for the Corvette Sting Ray. When he was 19 years old, he became the youngest designer ever hired by General Motors. A few years later in 1957, he sketched the Sting Ray, which was released in 1963.
Brock’s also an award-winning photojournalist, with more 20 years of experience, mostly covering auto racing. In 2010, he was honored with the International Automotive Media Lifetime Achievement Award by the International Society for Vehicle Preservation. Those are just a few examples of Brock’s many accomplishments in the car design world.
Brock’s relationship with the museum on Bellevue Avenue began with the purchase of a 1965 Shelby Daytona Factory Five Racing Coupe that Brock designed. The windshield was chipped and needed to be replaced, and Brock was helpful in sourcing the parts for the car. For a rare, custom-made car, those parts can be hard to find, de Muzio said.
Since then, museum officials have stayed in contact with Brock, who will turn 81 this year. For de Muzio, it’s important for the museum to learn about and document the oral history of car design in that period, he said.
“I think it’s important for a racing history, social history, point of view to get to know these older guys and hear their stories,” he said. “That’s why we connect with these people — get a better idea of how cars and collections fit into American history and the history of racing. Otherwise, we’re just looking at a car.”
That relationship fits in with the museum’s mission of “preserving Newport’s history one car at a time.”
The nonprofit museum has access to collections with more than 200 cars, allowing for three unique exhibits per year.