Jay Leno to Auction Off Fiat 500 for Charity (Exclusive)
"The Tonight Show" host's proceeds from the Gooding & Co. auction will benefit the Fisher House Foundation, which serves injured war veterans and their families.
Jay Leno's 2012 Fiat 500 will be auctioned off by Gooding & Company at its Pebble Beach Auction on Aug. 18, with the late-night host's proceeds going to the Fisher House Foundation.
The nonprofit operates a network of 57 large residences on military and Veterans Affairs medical centers that offer a place for service men and women and their families to live while they receive treatment for war wounds. The residences range from 5,000 to 16,500 square feet and include as many as 21 suites.
"They build these mansions using only the finest -- 55-inch TVs, custom kitchens -- the best stuff," said Leno, an avid car collector who owns about 100 automobiles, including a handful of vintage Fiats. "If you are a soldier who has been wounded and you're in rehab you can move into the house and you can leave when you are ready to leave."
Leno's Fiat 500 is a Prima Edizione model and is No. 2 in a 500-car limited edition that commemorates the company's return to the U.S. in 2011. His model, which is white and has about 800 miles on it, was the first U.S.-spec Fiat 500 to be sold to a customer, with No. 1 owned by Fiat president Sergio Marchionne. The car is being offered without a reserve, so it is guaranteed to go home with a new owner. Gooding, the official auction house of the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, estimates the car could fetch between $25,000 and $35,000 or more.
"Hopefully some good samaritan will pay way more than it's worth," Leno said. “It’s a fun car to drive, it's a cool little car. Any time you want to take the little car instead of the big car, then you are doing it right."
The Tonight Show host's Fiat was featured on a segment of his web series, Jay Leno’s Garage; the Fiat 500 is evocative of the company's Cinquecento, which debuted in 1957 and was long a cultural icon. Leno also owns a 1959 Fiat Millecento, a 1937 Fiat Topolino and a 1917 Fiat Botafogo Special.
Fisher House was founded in 1990 and has served nearly 160,000 families. There is no fee to stay at one of the organization's properties; the nonprofit operates a facility at West Los Angeles Health Center on Wilshire Boulevard.
"Knowing Jay's passion for cars, and what this one represents to him, we recognize that he is sacrificing something special for what he believes is a greater good," said Ken Fisher, CEO of Fisher House, in a statement. "All of Fisher House and the families we serve thank him deeply."
A 2007 New Holland Boomer tractor owned by Leno sold at auction for nearly $550,000 in January -- with the comedian's proceeds also going to Fisher House. The tractor, nicknamed "Lil Tug," was signed by President George W. Bush.
"The one thing that is really nice about it is you always hear about these things that you donate your car to and six months later there is a scandal because only five percent went to the cause. You know it all goes to Fisher House," Leno said.
The winning bidder will also receive an invitation to visit Leno's car collection near L.A.