We're on the Blackfoot
Jay Leno recently got a taste of what it was like to race like auto pioneer Louis Chevrolet did in 1910.
The Sloan Museum’s Buick Bug — a restored race car from that era — was recently featured on Leno’s web series, “Jay Leno’s Garage.” “What a piece of history this thing is,” Leno shouted over the roar of the bug’s engine, also saying that flames shot out of the exhaust pipes, almost catching the cameraman’s clothing on fire.
Before he took it for a spin around the block, he chatted with Sloan Museum’s Jeremy Dimick, who traveled to California with the car, a trip that General Motors helped fund.
Dimick showed him everything from the rear brakes that weren’t exactly reliable to the four-piston, 622-cubic-inch engine that were, as Leno put it, “the size of coffee cans … it’s like driving a bass drum.”
The Buick Bug, named for its bug-like shape, was raced in what would become the Indianapolis 500. It was a way for Buick to get its name out there and build a brand.
It was a dangerous way, too. Dimick said that the Bug could get up to about 105 miles per hour, which was even more dangerous, considering the old design of the car.
During his drive, Leno realized that it really was just built for racing — it only went forward. After pulling into a drive to turn around and asking if it had a reverse, Dimick and a show assistant had to come and push him backward. “It’s a little loud, I think the neighbors are going to start complaining,” Leno said when he finished his drive.