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Known more for comedy and cars, Jay Leno gives a glimpse of his vast motorcycle collection

Charles Fleming, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Automotive News

LOS ANGELES -- Jay Leno is as famous for his vintage cars as he is for his comedy, thanks to his long-running "Jay Leno's Garage" TV show.

But the former late-night host is just as passionate about motorcycles as he is about cars, and just as knowledgeable. Leno has one of the most interesting collections of two-wheeled machines, and recently took us on a tour of his museum-like gallery.

It includes the world's most extensive collection of Brough Superiors, which to some collectors is the finest motorcycle ever made, and which Leno calls "the first superbike."

Leno bought his first Brough in the 1980s, paying $5,000 for a 1939 model that his friends scoffed at.

"People thought, 'You're out of your mind. That's crazy -- five-thousand dollars,'" Leno remembered. "But now they're half-a-million-dollar motorcycles."

The machines were known for their speed at a time when most motorcycles didn't go very fast. The Broughs were regularly clocked at over 100 miles per hour -- "a ton," in the slang of the day -- in the 1920s.

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Leno acknowledges that they went fast better than they stopped. Their brake technology, standard for the times, wasn't very effective.

"You don't really stop," he said. "You try to retard progress. You practice accident avoidance."

Vintage machines like the Broughs require the operator's total attention, and a good deal of maintenance, and even then are as likely to fall apart as stay together.

"With older motorcycles like this, people aren't amazed that you got there that quickly," Leno said. "They're amazed that you got there at all."


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