MY LIFE IN CARS Matt LeBlanc
TGTV’s MLB isn’t just into heavy plant machinery, he’s got a surprise or two in his garage
Ilearned to drive in my Dad’s pickup truck – a 1974 Datsun with a manual transmission. He was a mechanic, so I’ve worked on cars and had a big roller toolbox as tall as me since I was in ffth grade. He taught me to drive when I was 12 or 13, not out on the road, just around parking lots and stuf like that.
I took my driving test in my step-dad’s AMC Javelin. It was beige with a brown vinyl top. It was the biggest s**tbox: rusty, with a smashed-in passenger door and it had a wood block on the throttle pedal so when my mother drove it she could reach the gas pedal. Oh, and the foor on the driver’s side was so rusted out you could literally see the road.
My frst car was a 1984 Nissan pickup truck, four-wheel drive, standard cab, standard bed, manual transmission. I drove it for a year, sold it and bought a 1978 Chevy Blazer that had a six-inch lift kit and 36-inch Denman Ground Hawg tyres, jacked up to the moon. It needed a hands-on kind of person to keep it going and that’s what I wanted. I sold it when I moved to New York to start studying acting, then I didn’t have a car for a long time.
When I moved to California, I bought an Audi 5000, the one that used to jump into gear and kill people, remember that car? It never happened to mine, but I got rid of it anyway.
My next car was the Fiat X1/9 by Bertone. I drove past it in a used car lot, turned around and went straight in. It was the poor man’s Ferrari. I’d never had a convertible before and I got sunburn on the tops of my ears... I’ll never forget sitting at a trafc light and picking at it and the whole top of my ear peeled of in one piece. I was like, “Woah, no more cabrios.”
I got rid of that and bought a Chevy S-10 Blazer, the small one, but there wasn’t really anything aftermarket you could buy for it, so I got rid of it and bought a 1991 GMC Jimmy. I got a bit carried away with that truck and learnt a valuable lesson. I was paying for it in installments, about $600 a month, but I still had some custom leaf springs in it, one-tonne axles, a big lift kit, and I put a Turbo 400 transmission in it – the same shifter as the King of the Hammers’ car. Then I ran out of money and couldn’t aford the payments. I had to sell it for what I owed on it and took a big loss.
After that it was an old 1970 FLH Harley. That was all I had for a while, but I sold it because I needed food and had rent to pay. Next was a secondhand Nissan 240SX that I put a cat-back system on and just a cold-air intake. I’ve got to have something to customise. I don’t know if that’s just an American thing? Then Friends started. I got rid of the 240SX, bought a Jeep Grand Cherokee, kept that, and then I bought a 1970 De Tomaso Pantera with 30,000 miles on it. That was a poster car for me, just always loved it, because it looked like the GT40.
I took it to my accountant who was like, “You bought a what? Oh my God, why did you do that?” And I go, “I’m telling you it’s awesome, I’ll take you for a ride.” On my way to his house, at a red light, the hat on a valve let go of the stem, fell down and twisted, and the piston hit it. It wedged itself into the top of the piston, split it and therefore split the block.
So I pulled the motor from it and built a Boss 351 Cleveland, which is basically a Cleveland with a roller valve train. I didn’t do it myself, I was buried on Friends – it’s quite nice having a project like that on the side, something that’s so diferent from the day job. But it wasn’t the power increase I was looking for, so then I built a real motor, spent like $25,000. I built a 420 Windsor block with aluminium Yates racing heads, stud girdles, titanium valves, titanium springs, a big high-rise intake manifold that was all extrude hone ported. I put on an 850 Holley carburettor that was fowed to about 950. Also I installed a stronger clutch, and then I started going through the car.
I put bigger, wider wheels on it, stainless radiators and I cut louvres in the hood. I spent probably $140,000 on the car and about two years building the thing – in the end, it made probably 575bhp on pump gas. It was stout. And it sounded badass. But then I got into Porsches and just stopped driving it. So I sold it, took a bath on it, obviously, and got rid of it.