The automotive guest on this episode isn't about speed or performance. It's just fun
“I’m just laughing looking at it. It just makes me smile,” Jay Leno exclaimed about the 1979 Volkswagen Beetle police car that pulled into Jay Leno’s Garage. Unless you’re getting pulled over, it’s likely to make you smile, too.
The car is owned by Spike Feresten, who’s the host of Esquire Network’s Car Matchmaker and the podcast Spike’s Car Radio. He acquired the car through his friend Jerry Seinfeld, who is known to have at least a passing interest in German automobiles.
The interesting thing about this particular liveried Beetle is that it’s not a show car or a parade car, but an actual German Polizei vehicle that served in the motor pool from 1978 through 1990. It comes bearing cigarette burns in the seats from the occasional careless patrol officer.
This Beetle has a PA system on the roof, along with the familiar blue light. Under the front bumper sit the sirens to alert the populace that an underpowered cop car is on the case.
The car makes less than 50 horsepower, so highway pursuit isn’t one of its strengths. The only modification performed by Feresten was the installation of rear seat belts because that wasn’t an option to protect criminals back in the day.
After its service, the car was tossed into a warehouse until it was discovered back in 2007. Someone found it and performed an extensive exterior restoration. Seinfeld heard about it and imported the car. He used it for the Bill Maher episode of Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, then Feresten used it for an episode of Car Matchmaker. That was just TV, though, because ever since Feresten has kept it to use for local car shows or just general family cruising.
After Feresten gave Leno the history of the car and talked about the Telefunken radio (a subject of several jokes), the pair took the car for a “tootle” — you don’t drive this car so much as tootle around in it, as Feresten explained. Leno lived out some random German police officer fantasies, even if his accent is a bit more Austrian than German.
Regardless, the slow car provided for a relaxing ride. That’s part of the beauty of an underpowered car. It might look like an exciting machine on the outside, but an old Bug, despite its lack of power, is an enjoyable and therapeutic machine.1 comment