The 1958 MacMinn LeMans Coupe is a car that even the most dedicated of car guys and gals may struggle to identify.
That's because just a handful were built during the 1950s and they ended up either wrecked in accidents or later dismantled.
The version featured in the latest episode of "Jay Leno's Garage" is only original as far as its fiberglass body is concerned. The body was left to rot in a field for decades until it was finally acquired by amateur builder Dennis Kazmerowski, who together with close friend Alan Fudge rebuilt the car using original instructions published in Road & Track. The original car had a 283-cubic-inch Chevy V-8, and the rebuilt car features a 283 V-8 from a 1957 Corvette. Kazmerowski says the restoration project took 3,000 hours to complete over just 20 months and it weighs less than 2,000 pounds.
The MacMinn LeMans Coupe wasn't a regular production car but the result of an idea from John Bond, who in the 1950s was the publisher of Road & Track. His idea was for an American-designed car that could win the 24 Hours of Le Mans and be assembled using easy-to-source parts.
Thanks to his engineering background, Bond was able to design a chassis, details of which were documented in articles in Road & Track starting in 1957. He still needed a designer for the body, and that task went to Strother MacMinn, who at the time was head of design at the prestigious ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena, California. MacMinn was also a friend of Jay Leno and would regularly hang out at the funny man's garage.
Key features of the MacMinn LeMans Coupe include a longtail design, gullwing doors, and a V-8 powertrain. The car's shape, while appearing like it wants to slip through the air, was never aerodynamically tested.
Bond and MacMinn didn't build any of the cars themselves. The challenge was left to readers, several of whom stepped up to the plate. According to Undiscovered Classics, which has documented the history of the car and its various builds, three cars were completed after the design was published in Road & Track, and two got to a partial-build stage. Now Kazmerowski's car can be added to the list.
For more information on this particular car and the original project, and to see Jay drive the car, click on the video above.