Jim Smart
April 4, 2011
Photos By: NBC-Universal

MM: What do you think that's doing to the Mustang?

Leno: The Mustang's still selling like hotcakes. But the Mazda Miata is the Mustang of this generation. Kids just out of high school can afford a Miata from the early 1990s, priced around $2,500, which is like the $600 Mustang of long ago. The guy I bought my GT350 from snapped it up for $600 in 1969. It was just an old Mustang.

MM: What do you think about Ford Motor Company these days?

Leno: I think it's changing. I guess it's whatever you grew up with and whatever your dad liked that keeps you loyal. Let's face it, in the 1970s and even into the 1980s we were building crappy cars. They kept the bean counters and got rid of the engineers. Now we're back to engineers. I think the new Ford Fusion is a hybrid equal to anything from Europe or Japan. It offers 42 miles to the gallon and it's bulletproof!

MM: Have you ever considered building an exotic Mustang restomod?

Leno: Yeah, maybe sometime. There are a lot of those out there. It's hard to beat the classic Shelby or Mustang GT with exhausts going through the back valance or that GT badge on the front fenders, the Rally-Pac, the fastback. I guess I'd build something a little different. I'm not a '55 Chevy guy, not because I don't like them but because I go to a car show and there are a hundred of them lined up. I'd like to do a Mustang with a 289 and Webers-more European.

MM: Do you like the new '11 Mustangs?

Leno: I was up at Pebble Beach and got one of the new Laguna Seca Boss 302s, a pretty amazing automobile-440 horsepower! See, Mustang knows its customer base. When the original Mustang came out, people wanted independent rear suspension. But the Mustang was affordably priced and people could modify it the way they wanted to. Independent rear suspension was available on the SVT Mustang Cobra and not many people ordered it. Most Mustang guys are drag guys. They like to drop the clutch and do a burnout. And Mustang corners well just the way it is. In most comparison road tests, people prefer the new Mustang with a live axle over cars with independent rear suspension.

MM: Are there any other classic Mustangs you'd like to have?

Leno: The first generation is the best. Up until 1966, the automakers could do whatever they wanted. In 1969, the government stepped in and we got away from designing and building whatever we wanted. I like all Mustangs, but I have to admit the '70s Mustangs don't interest me. The '84-'86 SVO was an interesting car.

MM: How often do you drive your GT350?

Leno: Couple times a month. Guys build a car and trailer it, and consequently there's no one around to fix that car because it doesn't break. That's the trouble with Deusenbergs, nobody drives them. Nobody makes parts for them. No one knows how to work on them because they're trailered and they never break. The Bentley Drivers Club, on the other hand, will drive Peking to Paris and there are people making crankshafts and everything needed to keep them running. I commend Mustang owners who drive these cars. I love looking through the catalogs at all the parts and accessories available for these cars. That's great because people actually use them. They get in accidents and this makes business for the people who make parts, which keeps the whole cycle going.

MM: So it wouldn't bother you to wrinkle a fender on your GT350?

Leno: No, wouldn't bother me as long as it didn't hurt anyone. You restore them to 100 points, drive them down to 15 points, and restore them again.