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Veronique de Turenne

Jay Leno and the '49 Plymouth


The summer I bought the '49 Plymouth two things went wrong. A local garage botched the job of replacing the clutch, and the radio went out. The car was still drivable but without the radio to listen to Vin Scully, what was the point? So I asked around and though no one knew of a good vintage car mechanic, I did get a tip on a radio guy. Norb Fournier. Just his name gave me confidence.

Norb owned Van Nuys Radio Service back in the 1950s and when he retired, he moved his gear into the workshop behind his house. He was in his early 80s when I met him. Didn't advertise, but word-of-mouth kept him busy. My radio just needed a new tube, Norb said. Quick job. Wait here.

So I did, admiring the tidy lines of tools, bins of parts, neat stacks of antique radios. And there, taped to a wall near some photos and old invoices was a scrap of paper that said "Jay", with an 818 phone number. Jay Leno? But no, Leno famously had his own garage and his own mechanic for his remarkable car collection and really, would Jay Leno's phone number be Scotch taped to a workshop wall in Van Nuys?

I called the number when I got home. Got voicemail. A woman's voice. I left a message anyway, said how I saw the number on Norb's wall, that I was in dire need of a good mechanic for an old car and if anyone there could recommend someone, please call. I felt like an idiot when I hung up. And just a few minutes later the phone rang. "Hi -- this is Jay Leno returning your call."

He was so nice, matter-of-fact and kind. He asked about the car, commiserated about bad mechanics, brushed off my apologies for bothering him. And then he gave me the name of the gifted mechanic who would keep the '49 Plymouth running for years. Let him know I sent you, Jay said. Which is why it never matters the context in which his name comes up -- my first thought is always Jay Leno, great car guy.

Next entry: The lake here this morning

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