Like all great feats of the imagination, the EcoJet began life on a napkin. As an auto enthusiast, Jay Leno had always wanted to design his own turbine-engined car, and when he conceived the notion for a high-performance, yet environmentally friendly, vehicle the pen and napkin came out. Eight months later the results were premiered at the 2006 Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) show in Las Vegas.
The primary goal was to design and build a car that ran on environmentally friendly, renewable bio-diesel fuel and that didn’t drive like a Prius. Of course, as Jay has quipped, that makes harvest time the only time of year when there’ll be plenty of fuel available, but that’s beside the point.
The heart of the EcoJet is a 650-horsepower Honeywell LT-101 turbine engine, which sits inside a modified Corvette Z06 hydroformed aluminum frame with aluminum and magnesium structural and chassis components. The vehicle’s shell is an advanced construction of carbon fiber over Kevlar, and the body is painted with environmentally friendly paint from Glasurit’s 9 Line Waterborne Technology lines, which is designed to dramatically reduce emissions during application.
Though the car was built almost entirely at Jay’s Big Dog Garage, the design and engineering was actually overseen by GM under the leadership of Ed Welburn, GM Vice President of Global Design and Frank Saucedo, head of GM’s Design Studio in North Hollywood, California.
But nobody said that designing and building an environmentally friendly supercar was quick and easy. It’s been three long years since the inception of the EcoJet project, and there have been many bumps along a painstaking road. It didn’t take long for its monster turbine engine to burn out clutch discs, brakes, and torque converter. Jay and the Big Dog crew always knew that the EcoJet would be a long term labor of love and a work in progress. Now that the EcoJet is finally on the road and clocking speeds in excess of 150 mph, the next step will be trying to come up with a system to muffle intake noise for a whisper quiet ride.
With aeronautical and jet-age influences, the EcoJet’s design conveys power, capability, and even a hint of danger, but ultimately, the project is intended to inspire would-be automotive designers by showing that with a little creativity (and more money than brains), an environmentally friendly performance car is not only possible but also breathtaking.
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Tonight Show host Jay Leno explores his passion for all things on wheels in this Emmy Award-winning web series.
EcoJet: Definitive Edition – Jay Leno’s Garage