Johnny Carson may have been the most powerful on-screen performer in the history of Hollywood. From 1962 to 1992, he was perhaps the funniest man on TV, and his barb-sharp wit quickly became the model for late night hosts to emulate. The studio was paying him $25 million per year when he left “The Tonight Show,” and he could make or break careers with a single sentence. John Z. DeLorean sought to shine some of Carson’s light on his fledgling sports car company in the late 1970s and convinced the king of late night to invest $500,000 in DeLorean Motor Company. In recognition for his significant investment, Carson was gifted this car by the company, DMC-12 VIN 2439.
This is the car that famously locked Johnny inside on his very first drive. In an episode of “Jay Leno’s Garage”, Jay talks a bit about the car’s battery dying on the highway and preventing Mr. Carson from opening the iconic gullwing doors. That’s not a great way to kick off a new relationship with a company investor, but Carson kept driving the thing anyway, complaining about the car’s electrical system the whole time.
You can tell this is a very early DeLorean as the hood-mounted fuel filler flap is still in place. The later cars required owners to open the entire front-hinged hood in order to fill the fuel.
After Carson returned the car to DeLorean, it continued to be driven, racking up just shy of 88,000 miles by 1992. In the last thirty years it’s barely been driven 2,000 miles, though it was treated to a full three-month restoration by DeLorean Motor Company, and comes with a 6,000 mile warranty. Based on what little documentation the car has, it appears to have spent most of its life in Southern California.
Carson’s replacement DeLorean which he rarely drove, VIN 4523, was sold on Bring A Trailer in 2021 for a whopping $110,000. This one is currently on offer by Broad Arrow Group, and the auction closes on December 8. It’s currently bid up to $31,000. You can bet it’ll go for more than that. Shy of the BTTF screen-used cars, or the Amex Gold Card cars, this might be one of the coolest examples of Giugiaro’s iconic design out there. Go bid on it so I can stop daydreaming about this car.
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