Jay Leno considers himself an “automotive archaeologist.”
The former “Tonight Show” host on Friday made a visit to what he said was one of the great automobile meccas – the downtown Buffalo Transportation Pierce-Arrow Museum.
The comedian’s trip to Buffalo was no accident. It was the main factor, he said, in choosing to perform Friday evening at Niagara Fallsview Casino in Niagara Falls, Ont.
“It’s one of the great museums,” Leno said. “You’ve got history in Buffalo that is really about 100 years old, and if people like Jim weren’t saving it, it would just disappear,” said Leno, referring to owner James Sandoro.
“Pierce-Arrow rivaled Rolls-Royce as the best car in the world at one point. People don’t remember how prosperous Buffalo was, and that the best cars were built there, or that Mark Twain was the editor of the newspaper.”
Twain edited the Buffalo Express, which later merged with the Buffalo Courier to become the Buffalo Courier-Express.
Leno, who owns a Pierce-Arrow among his 150 antique automobiles and 117 motorcycles, said the museum is more impressive every time he returns.
“Unlike a lot of museums, it’s constantly evolving and changing,” Leno said. “The number of products built here in Buffalo is pretty amazing.”
Leno also was impressed with the replica of a filling station designed by Frank Lloyd Wright for Buffalo. He appreciated its appeal to both architecture fans and car buffs.
“It’s incredible, and something you won’t see anywhere else in the world,” Leno said. “That’s another piece of history I think people will come far and wide to see.”
Leno said he has been taking notice of Buffalo’s revival during trips to Western New York – and likes what he sees.
“It’s fun seeing Buffalo come back. I can tell downtown is being built up with lofts,” Leno said. “The old brick is being cleaned and scrubbed, and you still have the old look with the modern restoration.”
He said Sandoro’s knowledge of automobile history, to go with documents and advertisements and articles, was one of the reasons why he has visited the museum on several occasions.
“There is so much cool old stuff around here,” Leno said. “If you’re an automotive archaeologist like I am, you only have to dig past two or three generations, unlike Egyptian stuff that you have to go back thousands of years for.”