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Ford and Jay Leno blend past and future, customizing an F-150 Lightning to match Walmart founder’s 1979 pickup

At this past weekend’s Woodward Dream Cruise – metro Detroit’s annual celebration of the automotive industry – Jay Leno, former late-night TV host and host of Jay Leno’s Garage, revealed a custom Ford F-150 Lightning. Not just any Lightning, though – the EV unveiled by Leno was custom painted to match a 1979 version of the F-Series owned by Walmart’s founder, Sam Walton.

In front of a small crowd of onlookers and car loyalists on Detroit’s iconic Woodward Avenue, Leno spoke with Walmart USA CEO John Furner about the history of cars in Michigan. On stage in front of a crowd at the Dream Cruise, Leno spoke:

You’ve got a ton of cars that each have one owner, and that’s what I like. Everybody here that has a car, they have a connection because maybe their grandfather worked the line, or maybe their grandmother worked in the office at Ford, or even maybe they worked the line… whenever I talk to car owners here, there’s always history with the car. In LA, you want it done from somebody else. Here, it’s usually people that have built it and maintained it themselves, and it’s their pride and joy.

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Jay Leno and Walmart CEO, John Furner, in front of ’79 F-150

As an homage to the F-150’s history and to his partnership with Walmart, Leno unveiled a custom F-150 Lighting – a near replica of Walmart founder Sam Walton’s 1979 F-150 – complete in a two-tone red and white color scheme. Check it out below:

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Leno’s custom F-150 Lightning side by side with the ’79 F-150
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Leno’s F-150 Lightning

Walmart will soon be carrying a full specialty line of car care products from Jay Leno’s Garage, hence the partnership and the unveiling with Walmart’s current CEO John Furner.

Electrek’s Take

As a local, it was cool to know that Leno skipped over this year’s Pebble Beach Concour’s d’Elegance car show to instead attend our very own Woodward Dream Cruise for the unveiling of his custom F-150 Lightning, highlighting his partnership with both Ford and Walmart. Being the infamous and renowned Car Guy that he is, Leno clearly understands the historic significance of Woodward Avenue in The Motor City.

Leno’s Lightning is a true-blue mirror of Walton’s classic ’79 pickup, but with all of the bells and whistles that accompany Ford’s insanely in-demand EV truck.

In a somewhat comical moment while trying to exit the parking lot and descend onto Woodward to cruise the custom truck – with the assistance of local police blockading traffic northbound on Woodward Avenue – Leno’s team had to first set up cameras in his Lightning while cars stood at a standstill for about 10 minutes.

The Oakland County Sheriff could be heard at one point saying, clearly frustrated, “If he doesn’t go now, I’m releasing traffic!” as local cruisers were unable to proceed while police barricaded Woodward. Celebrity be damned, a certain level of backed-up traffic waits for no one.

All in all, Leno’s Lighting is a nice callback to the Walmart founder’s pickup, blending an older generation with a new EV.

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