Jay Leno Released From Burn Ward, And Why A Steam Car Caused A Gas Fire In The First Place

Leno Burn Top

I’m sure you remember how a bit over a week ago the man who is possibly the world’s most famous gearhead, Jay Leno, was severely burned in a gasoline fire while working on one of his cars. I’m happy to inform you now that Jay seems to be on the mend, and has been released from the Grossman Burn Center in Los Angeles. As you can see in the pic released by the burn center, Jay’s trademark lower jaw seems to have taken the brunt of the burns, but he’s healing up and back in his expected all-denim getup, which I take as a good sign. Also, it’s worth noting that the car Leno was working on when this happened was a 1907 White steam car. And the injuries happened because he was sprayed with gasoline. So why would a steam car have gasoline at all? I’ll explain.

But before we get there, let’s hear from Dr. Peter Grossman, of the burn clinic that bears his name:

“I am pleased with Jay’s progress, and I am optimistic that he will make a full recovery.”

That’s great. Reports suggest he was a peach of a patient, and the hospital issued this statement as well:

“Jay would like to let everyone know how thankful he is for the care he received, and is very appreciative of all of the well wishes. He is looking forward to spending Thanksgiving with his family and friends and wishes everyone a wonderful holiday.”

Leno received skin grafts from donor skin, and had to spend time in a hyperbaric chamber. These were pretty severe burns, but the Grossman clinic is known to be one of the best in the country, so he was in good hands.

I should add that I know Jay a bit, as he blurbed my book and I was a producer on his show for a while, and we once shared a magical time in the worst car ever built:

In my experience, he’s proven to be a genuinely good guy, and it says something that this man, who has so much money that if he went out to lunch with God, he’d pay, is doing his own work on his own incredibly obscure cars. His love for cars is genuine and not about status or any other bullshit like that. He’s the real deal.

Here’s the 1907 White steamer that he was working on when the accident happened:

So while steam cars don’t run on gasoline, that doesn’t mean they can’t. Even though steam cars are powered by steam, you still have to make the steam, which means heating up water. The methods used to heat water can involve burning wood or coal or really pretty much anything, including gasoline.

Jay Whitediagram

In the case of the White steamer, there’s a “pilot fuel” used to light the flame to get the water hot, and, as you can hear Jay say at this point in the video, the White uses gasoline to light the pilot of the car. It’s also worth noting that the gasoline tank in the car is pressurized, so if Jay was under the car and something happened to a fuel line, it’s not going to just drip out like a non-running internal combustion car would, but instead would spray out, since it’s under pressure.

So, for all of you White steam car owners reading this, take heed from Jay’s misfortune and be careful when working on the pilot system! In fact, maybe it’s best for you to take it to one of the many friendly White Steam Car dealerships in your area. Why risk it?

Anyway, get better soon, Jay.

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26 Responses

  1. The 1907 White Steamer jumped from 20 hp to 30 hp for 1907, steam pressure boosted to 600 psi. There is always a risk of a steam leak which would also cause a nasty burn. In 1910 White advanced to the use of Kerosene could be used in lieu of gasoline. This was the same company that originally was White Sewing Machine Company. I needed to share my newfound knowledge of Oldtime Steam Cars from a book from 1953 that I just acquired of that name.

    1. He’s literally got a closet full of them, supposedly buys ca 200 denim shirts and 50 pairs of jeans each year so he can just toss the ones that get totally ruined from car fluids. Also used to buy non-slip oil resistant work shoes from Payless by the crateload, no word on what he replaced those with when they went under, maybe stocked up.

  2. This is pretty well exactly what I assumed happening – just casually watching his videos over the years, he appears to have had several close calls lighting the pilots on his steam cars, this almost certainly would have happened more than once already had he not always pulled his head out of the way with a fraction of a second to spare. Just a little too slow this time and his luck caught up.

  3. All denim is great when you’re engulfed in flames. In the army we tested how fast napalm burns through various fabrics and denim is one of the better ones. We also ran through trenches with wool blankets on top while they poured napalm on us, fun times in the Finnish army.

  4. So glad Jay is on the mend. I have a memory of Jay asking you on a show “When are you getting back to stand up?” (or something to that effect) 1: didn’t know you had done comedy. 2: Jay & you were familiar with one another! I bet most of us Autopians would’ve “got” your comic stylings. So when are you appearing next at the ‘Chuckle Hut’ near me? (Citrus County, Floda)

    1. When I was a kid, White was one of the biggest semi manufacturers, I remember seeing their tractors all the time when traveling. White, Freightliner, Mack, Peterbilt and Kenworth were the brands I remember seeing the most. That was back before the first 3 got bought out.

  5. A hospital is a lot like a restaurant. Dont piss off the people taking care of you, at least until they are done.

    But seriously glad Jay is okay. It is a testimony to his nature that you never see his name in the This celebrity is an asshole, cheapskate, smells bad articles.

  6. Relative to your comment in the video, Jason, I have a serious question: why the heck does everybody these days think that you’re out of control when drifting? You are perfectly in control. It isn’t any more difficult than steering a fishing boat up to a dock in a current.

    My generation obviously didn’t teach you kids well enough…

  7. A number of those Brass Era cars would have an engine driven airpump, to put the gasoline tank under a few PSI pressure, to move the fuel to the carb
    Also vacuum based pumps, and diaphragm pumps that replaced both were invented in the late ’20s

    Henry Ford was cheap, and didn’t want to pay for the patents on any of those systems for the Model T, and so used Gravity Feed to keep the carb bowl full of fuel.

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