Jay Leno’s V12 Truck Is Red Hot

Many trucks have featured V12 engines. The Lamborghini LM002 was a luxury truck boasting a V12 engine derived from the Countach. Other engines, such as the legendary Detroit Diesel V12s and the GMC Twin Six, were built for a range of workhorses. But Jay Leno’s V12 truck predates all of them. The world’s most famous car collector is the proud owner of a 1941 American LaFrance Fire Truck. Learn more about Jay Leno’s fire truck, and its aircraft-engine-inspired V12.

1941 American LaFrance Fire Truck

THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO -- Episode 3348 -- Pictured: Host Jay Leno drives away in one of his many "automobiles," a vintage collector red fire engine, after the show on April 16, 2007 -- Photo by: Paul Drinkwater/NBCU Photo Bank
Jay Leno and his 1941 fire truck | Paul Drinkwater/NBCU Photo Bank/Getty Images

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The American LaFrance Fire Engine Company began as a merger between several companies–some making engines, others fire-fighting equipment–in 1903. It was 1907 when the new company completed its first motorized fire engine. The company continued to produce generations of fire trucks and other emergency vehicles until it finally shut down in 2014.

Jay Leno’s fire truck is a 1941 American LaFrance tanker truck. It came equipped with a V12 engine. The V12 powerplant was initially based on the Lycoming BB aircraft engine.

This advanced engine was equipped with an early overhead cam. It produced 265 horsepower. In 1941, the engine was the most powerful ever built in America.

American LaFrance broke the mold with its new truck. It is the first wind tunnel tested truck. To make it more aerodynamic, the ladders and other gear hang inside the bed.

This workhorse of a truck features an oversized radiator and four separate alternators. Leno points out that the sturdy truck is designed to run–and operate pumps–all day long.

Jay Leno’s V12 Fire Truck

THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO -- Episode 3348 -- Pictured: Host Jay Leno drives away in one of his many "automobiles," a vintage collector red fire engine, after the show on April 16, 2007 -- Photo by: Paul Drinkwater/NBCU Photo Bank
Jay Leno driving his 1941 fire truck | Paul Drinkwater/NBCU Photo Bank/Getty Images

American LaFrance sold Leno’s truck to Warner Brothers to be their studio lot fire truck in 1941. In the early 1950s, Warner Brothers donated the vehicle to the city of Burbank, California. In the middle or late 1960s, Burbank then gave it to the airport. Unfortunately, the airport had no use. for the antiquated truck, so they parked it at the end of the runway to serve as a windbreak. When the airport administrators decided to get rid of the old truck, they called Jay Leno.

Leno found the truck only had 11,000 miles clocked over the years. After an oil change, the overbuilt vehicle started up again. Leno decided it was in such good shape he would use it to haul his rare motorcycles when they broke down.

Leno Restored His American LaFrance

Leno removed the water tank in the bed of the truck. Then he had his team build a custom liftgate for the truck. The lift is more than long enough to fit an entire motorcycle.

Then, Leno had his team restore the chrome and repaint the truck. It was a long process for the large vehicle. Finally, he had it finished with hand pinstriping along the wheel wells and over the hood.

Naturally, Leno left the bell on the truck. He jokes that the siren is handy in Los Angeles traffic.

One of the only downsides of the fire truck is its incredible weight. Leno estimates his LaFrance weighs somewhere between six and eight tons. Even worse, it only has drum brakes. So Leno decided to upgrade his fire truck and fit it with a state-of-the-art induction brake system from Telma.

As the truck was never registered, Jay Leno is officially the first owner. Overall, he is very happy with his old “new” fire truck.

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