Monday, 01 January 2007 17:00

Car guy Jay Leno Unveils Environmentally Responsible Car

Written by Janet Chaney
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 Active Image Late night talk show host and car buff Jay Leno wanted to build a car that was futuristic, yet environmentally friendly. Teaming up with BASF and General Motors, Leno fulfilled his vision.


Jay Leno pulled the drape off the Eco-Jet and introduced his masterpiece, saying, "I wanted to build this sexy, batmobile, George Jetson kind of car that is kind of environmentally responsible." Leno unveiled his environmentally responsible Eco-Jet at the SEMA show in Las Vegas, Nevada, October 30, 2006.

Leno's collaboration with Ed Weldon, vice president of General Motors Advanced Design Studio, produced this glitzy one-of-a kind jet-powered automobile. This shiny "silver bullet" is powered by bio-diesel and finished with BASF's waterborne Glasurit 90 Line products achieving Leno's environmentally responsible goal. Glasurit 90 Line products meet SCAQM and CARB air quality requirements for California's stricter air quality laws taking effect in 2008.

Active ImageBASF is the product of choice for Leno at Big Dog Garage. When BASF representative Mike Manion was converting Big Dog's paint shop to Glasurit 90 Line waterborne products, Leno latched onto the eco-friendly product to help make his environmental statement with the Eco-Jet.

After months of anticipation, General Motors, under a cloak of secrecy, delivered the Eco-Jet body to Leno's Big Dog Garage to be painted and completed in time for the big SEMA show. Working with General Motors and Leno, BASF developed an exclusive, 'designer' silver Glasurit 90 Line waterborne basecoat color for the car.

The mid-engine 650 horse power Eco-Jet's design borrowed techniques from Formula 1 race cars and aircraft technology in the final design. It is powered by a Honeywell LT-101 turbine engine powered by environmentally safe bio-diesel. The corvette-inspired frame is hydroformed aluminum, with aluminum and magnesium structural and chassis components. The body parts are carbon fiber over a Kevlar skin.

A completed model of the car was on display in the shop for inspiration and accuracy. The unique body style, scissor doors, custom head and tail light openings and jet engine dynamics of the eco-jet required attention to every tiny detail in every step of the finish process.

Exotic body material

As the carbon fiber body rolled into the garage, BASF representatives Manion, Stepan Gesterkamp, Andrew Tait, Mark Northrup and Regional Manager Dave Brez rolled up their sleeves and went to work. Under the watchful eye of Leno and Big Dog Garage Chief Bernard Juechli, they created a work of art.

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"Carbon fiber has a different matte," explained Brez. "It is a very porous surface which makes it even more important to apply products in the right sequence." Collision repair shops will begin to see more carbon fiber in the future. Most notably used in aircraft parts, the new Boeing 867's wings are completely carbon fiber; high performance vehicles, Formula 1 and Indy car bodies are carbon fiber as are tuner cars - the Generation X culture of customizing cars.

Spraying 90 line from start to finish

The first process on this carbon fiber body was laying down three coats of high-build polyester primer Glasurit 1006.23. Multiple coats of this primer were laid on to prevent any "mapping or telegraphing" from the carbon fiber surface.

Step two was the application of Glasurit UV Primer 151-70. This state-of- the-art eco-friendly primer uses 90% less solvent than conventional urethane primers and cures with Ultra Violet light in 2 minutes, instead of 20 minutes, resulting in energy savings as a bonus. In 2005, BASF was presented the U.S. EPA's Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award. This UV primer is a good foundation for the waterborne basecoat.

Following this prep work, two-and-a-half coats of the 90 Line designer Eco-Jet silver basecoat were applied. First, a medium coat was applied, followed by another medium wet coat. The half coat - the effect coat - is applied to assure all metallics are laid out evenly. The Glasurit 90 Line waterborne basecoat uses water instead of solvent which dramatically reduces emissions during the color application process. As well as meeting all OEM refinish quality standards, this basecoat is used as the original finish on Maybach and Rolls Royce. And most recently, of course, Leno's Eco-Jet. Active Image

The shining super jet was completed with three coats of Glasurit Ultra Low VOC Clear 923-200. This urethane clear meets OEM specifications for weatherability, chip, scratch and chemical etch resistance.

"Painting the Eco-Jet without BASF would have been a challenge,"stated Big Dog's BASF rep Mike Manion. "Glasurit 90 Line allowed the team to paint in a non-heated booth in less than perfect conditions."

Glasurit 90 Line performed perfectly at Big Dog Garage. The silver vision took center stage at the Las Vegas gala affair. General Motors Ed Weldon and Leno stayed very close to their Eco-Jet project.

Leno did take a few questions from the crowd. When he was asked to start the jet engine car, Leno didn't miss a beat, "Steve Wynn would rather have a finger put through his Picasso, than let me start this car in his hotel!"


The World According to Leno

One might say the world already pays attention to Jay Leno - a charming, funny, bright guy who, as host of the Tonight Show, visits living rooms nightly around the globe. Although well known as a "car guy," the environmentally-responsible angle he has placed on his automotive endeavors is bringing the comedian even more attention. This is the Leno who is passionately restoring vintage cars, who is concerned about America's young people, and the future of America's automobile and the technicians who repair them.


A self-proclaimed Gear Head, Leno observed: "I'll tell you what's really wrong with this country. Every good machinist seems to be over the age of 65. If you happened to come into my shop, you'd see that I'm the youngest guy in there, and I'm in my 50s. There was a time in this country that if you were a skilled craftsman - if you were good with your hands - it was a sign of talent or even genius, and people gave you a lot of respect. Along the way, America has lost something important."

This is the Jay Leno who wanted to put together the best American team possible to build an environmentally safe car. "I want to inspire young people to get into car design," Leno continued in a rare serious moment, "and build a vehicle which will not be so harmful to the environment."

To fulfill Leno's goal of developing a more environmentally responsible vehicle, the "silver bullet" is powered by bio-diesel fuel and finished with BASF's waterborne Glasurit 90 Line products, which meet California's stricter clean air standards.

Working from Big Dog Garage, Leno's shop in southern California, he and chief mechanic Swiss-born Bernard Juechl began laying the groundwork for the Eco-Jet. After sketching his design on paper napkins, Leno presented his ideas to Ed Weldon, vice president of General Motors Advanced Design Studio, North Hollywood, California The General Motors/Leno collaboration turned that paper-napkin vision into a reality.

Collision repairers should take note of this General Motors/Leno collaboration. The materials and technology are already and will continue to be a part of the collision repair process.


Janet Chaney has been in many facets of the collision industry. She is serving the best interest of her clients through Cave Creek Business Development. She can be reached at janet_chaney@earthlink.net.

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