Watch Jay Leno Drive Johnny Carson’s 1939 Chrysler Royal

Jul 22, 2020 2 min read
Watch Jay Leno Drive Johnny Carson’s 1939 Chrysler Royal

Even for Jay Leno’s Garage, this is a real treat.

Comedians and cars, they seem to go together like steak and eggs. Maybe it’s because comedians are for the most part down-to-earth, not forgetting their roots and reveling in having pure, unadulterated fun. What better way to do that then wrenching on and driving cool cars, especially American rides. We get a big serving of that in the video accompanying this article and it’s pretty great to watch.

Jay Leno’s predecessor as host of the Tonight Show, the great Johnny Carson, was also a car guy. One of this vehicles is this beautiful 1939 Chrysler Royal, a Moparbuilt during the Great Depression and before the United States jumped into WWII. It’s stately, powerful, and was the choice of sophisticated men.

While the Chrysler Airflow was revolutionary for its time, the car wasn’t a roaring commercial success. Instead of scrapping the entire project, the automaker incorporated the aerodynamic principles learned from the Airflow to the Royal, which launched in 1937 as the replacement to the Chrysler Six.

Not content to just reheat the Airflow’s design, Chrysler gave the Royal a shorter chassis, bullet-shaped headlights, higher front fenders, and some horizontal crossmembers on the grille instead of a straight-up waterfall design. Pushing automotive technology further, the Royal also came with windshield defroster vents and padding on the back of the front seat for improved safety.

That wasn’t the end of the Chrysler Royal design genius. To better compete in the luxury car market, its cabin was far quieter, thanks to the use of rubber body mountings. Those also made the ride smoother, along with aero hydraulic shock absorbers.

Pushing the envelope even further in the late ‘30s was the straight-six engine, which as Chrysler proudly boasted, offered the “highest compression for its bore the world has yet seen.”

Despite all these innovative designs and smooth, quiet ride quality, Chrysler made the Royal for the average consumer. Priced at a mere $810 for the base model or $1,355 for the top-of-the-line convertible sedan, it gave people a lot of bang for the buck. While Johnny Carson easily could have purchased a Rolls-Royce (and he did but his ex-wife took it) the man reveled in driving a machine like this, which says a lot about him. If you haven’t watched Leno’s video about it yet, you really should because it’s pretty interesting.

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