When most dedicated car enthusiasts attempt to combine a car and a jet engine, the result is usually dangerous, hideous-looking or a ridiculously expensive combination of the two. When Jay Leno does it, you get the biodiesel-burning Ecojet concept.
Leno and his chief mechanic, Bernard Juchli, came up with the idea and made it happen in about seven months thanks to plenty of help from General Motors. According to Leno, "We wanted to show younger car enthusiasts that environmentally friendly cars don't have to look like a Prius." Ed Welburn, GM design chief, met with Leno to discuss ideas and then turned the project loose within GM's Advanced Projects studio in North Hollywood, California.
According to Juho Suh, whose design was eventually picked by Leno after a highly competitive "sketch off," there were minimal restraints. "We were told it was going to have a jet engine for power and use a Corvete ZO6 chassis; everything else was up to us." Although the turbine power plant recalls some of GM's original Firebird concepts from the '50s, Leno told them to do more than just make a modern-day version of those classic concepts. "I wanted some classic elements, but this wasn't supposed to be Firebird IV; it needed to stand on its own."
Once the design was finalized, Leno's crew of mechanics known as the Bad Dog Garage got to work building the aluminum chassis. Its frame rails, suspension and brakes are all taken straight from the Corvette Z06, but numerous modifications were made to support the new body and the jet turbine engine.
Generating 650 horsepower, the Honeywell LT-101 makes as much horsepower as it does noise. It's hooked to a four-speed Corvette transaxle with special gearing designed to make use of the engine's unique power band. A set of specially designed and built wheels from Alcoa get the power to the ground. Shaped like the fins of a turbine engine, they were used to remind onlookers what they couldn't see buried under the rear hatch.