Jay Leno Bought This V12 Packard From Phil Hill

This was the car that started Leno's massive collection, sold to him by American racing legend and Packard expert Phil Hill.

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YouTubeJay Leno's Garage

Today, Jay Leno's garage is full of rare and interesting cars, but back in the 1980s, that wasn't yet the case. Leno appeared on Late Night with David Letterman a number of times before becoming a regular substitute host for Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show. It was right around that time when he also decided to buy his first antique car, and to make sure he got what he paid for, Leno turned to Packard expert Phil Hill.

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Phil Hill, as you know, was a three-time Le Mans winner and the only American-born driver to win the Formula One World Drivers' Championship. Yet once he was done with racing, he spent most of his time working on old cars. He set up a restoration shop called Hill & Vaughn with business partner Ken Vaughn, and became a television commentator for ABC's Wide World of Sports and a long-time contributor for Road&Track.

Why did Leno go for a 1932 Packard Twin-Six as his first classic? Packard, thought of as "America's Rolls-Royce," was the first to introduce a V12 in 1912. The brand was at its height from the 1920s until WWII, re-launching the Twin-Six name in 1932 to take on Cadillac's opulent V16.

This car was built on a 142-inch wheelbase, with a 446 cubic inch V12, a three-speed manual and manually adjustable dampers. With its 160 horsepower, it was down on power (and sound) compared to a Duesenberg, but Packard had superior build quality and ride comfort. The Twin-Six's features included a guaranteed 100mph, a vacuum-operated clutch with freewheeling (to save fuel), rumble seats and a giant cormorant as a hood ornament.

As well as teaching Leno how to shift into reverse smoothly in old vehicles, Phil Hill also did such a great job on this car that despite using it regularly, Leno hasn't had to fix anything on it yet. Over three decades and a few oil changes later, the Twin-Six is a quiet testament to a humble driver who knew all about the machines he drove. And drive he did.

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