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Hot Rod Leno: Talk show host teams with GM to build high-powered Bowtie Deuce
Posted Date: 11/3/05

Jay Leno’s Big Dog Garage in Burbank, California, is stuffed with nearly 200 cars and motorcycles, but unless you count the oversized two-seat roadster powered by a tank engine that The Tonight Show host calls his “hot rod,” there really isn’t a true hot rod in the collection.

Until now.

Immediately following its premiere at the Specialty Equipment Market Association show in Las Vegas, a rod dubbed the Leno ’32 Bowtie Deuce Roadster takes its place in the comedian’s garage, alongside the likes of a McLaren F1 supercar, a 620-hp ’55 Buick Roadmaster, a Ford GT and a legendary motorcycle powered by a jet helicopter engine. There is rarified automotive air around Leno’s garage, but something tells us the Deuce will fit right in.

Built at Leno’s urging (and financed by his personal checkbook), the Bowtie Deuce is the result of a collaborative effort by Leno, General Motors Performance Division, and the makers of the Dearborn Deuce, Hot Rods & Horsepower. The latter relies on American Specialty Company for its steel ’32 Roadster body remakes.

The first germ of the idea came from Hot Rods & Horsepower president Craig Knight, who proposed building a series of Deuces for each of the Big Three automakers (see item below). Al Oppenheiser, GM director of concept and vehicle integration, was putting the finishing touches on Leno’s GM Performance-built Oldsmobile Toronado from last year’s SEMA show when he mentioned Knight’s idea.

“I was explaining to Jay about our version of the hot rod, and he said that was something he didn’t have,” Oppenheiser recalled. “He wanted to know if we would consider building one with him.”

From that point on, the project took a divergent path from GM’s original plan for the Bowtie Deuce. Leno offered up a ’32 Chevrolet chassis to provide a donor frame, stamping it as a true Chevy from the ground up. He also encouraged the engine tuners at GM Performance Division to create a special powerplant—one with unsurpassed Chevy pedigree: a high-output version of the already prodigiously endowed 505-hp, 470-lb-ft small-block LS7 V8 from the sixth-generation Corvette Z06. GM Performance project engineer Gary Mulder’s team succeeded, using a high-output cam, headers, revised engine recalibration and a special induction system with a K&N filter to create an LS7 that produces 600 hp and 526 lb-ft of torque. Power goes to the rear wheels via a six-speed Tremec manual transmission lifted directly from the Chevy SSR and a rear differential from the Cadillac CTS-V.

“This thing will be a pretty mean machine on the street,” says Oppenheiser.

Rear suspension comes from the C6, while the front end is an off-the-shelf Kugel setup with coil-over shocks. Like the Z06, the Bowtie Deuce sports 18-inch front and 20-inch rear custom aluminum wheels. Brembo brakes complete the chassis.

With the underlying hardware in place, GM and Leno collaborated to complete the Chevy-heavy styling, designing unique hood panels and a grille reminiscent of that on the ’34 Chevy. Blue leather-trimmed seats, waterfall center console and an instrument gauge cluster surround echo the seminal Corvettes. Round taillights and dual-chrome exhaust tips poke through the rolled rear pan borrowed from early Vette design. The silver-and-white diamond paint job is accented by round Corvette racing-flag logos that celebrate the 50th anniversary of the small-block Chevy engine.

“The car pays tribute to the early Corvettes, and gives a nod to the new C6 and Performance Parts,” says Oppenheiser.

Adds Leno: “We focused on tradition, but this Deuce is anything but traditional.”

Pack up that Tank Car, Jay. There’s a real hot rod in the garage.

Celebrating the Deuce’s 75th

Come 2007, when the 75th anniversary of America’s original ’32 Ford rolls around, Craig Knight wants to be ready to celebrate. And he’s teaming up with each of the Big Three to make sure that whether your tastes run to Ford, Chevy or Chrysler power under the hood, there’ll be a 75th Anniversary Dearborn Deuce ready to meet your specifications.

Knight, president of Hot Rods & Horsepower, the Connecticut-based company that markets Dearborn Deuce roadsters built by Michigan-based American Specialty Cars, hopes to produce a limited run of 100 cars for each company: a Bowtie Deuce, powered by a small-block 505-hp LS7 Corvette engine; a Hemi Deuce fitted with a 500-hp version of Chrysler’s performance 6.1-liter Hemi V8; and a 75th Anniversary Ford Dearborn Deuce packing a modified 4.6-liter, 350-hp Mach 1 V8.

Look for production versions of each model to roll out over the coming year, and expect prices between $125,000 and $135,000. For more information, visit or contact Hot Rods & Horsepower at (203) 481-1932.


442 Posts

Leno's stuff is always fascinating. His recent Toronado redo and the '55 Buick are great! I DO have an issue with the term "Big Three", though. It is now Big Two heading for Medium Two. Stuttgart, Germany is not in this country and the hemis are Mexican. It seems this country cannot get it straight about what happened in 1999. A german company bought Chrysler and that is it. No merger. No more Big Three. Guys like me lost their jobs. 41 years means nothing if you are not in the union. Think about that the next time you get tempted to bitch about unions or paying union dues. Go JAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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