"You've got to train for life. Well, anyway, the best thing I've ever done in my whole life and the thing that's pleased me the most is my Corvettes."-Jack LaLanne with VETTE (December 2006)
Jack LaLanne is America's oldest and most loved fitness expert. He opened the first modern health spa in America in 1936 and brought physical fitness to national TV in 1951. His inventions include the first weight pulley machines using cables, the first weight selectors, and the first leg-extension machine. He was the first fitness trainer to have women work with weights, and he encouraged the disabled and elderly to exercise for their own health. But there's something you probably don't know about Jack LaLanne.
His passion has always been fast cars-the faster, the better. In-between his fitness routines and motivational talks across the United States, Jack gets behind the wheel of his fourth Corvette, an '05 coupe. Yes, you read that right: Jack LaLanne, at 92 years young, is the proud owner of America's premier 400hp supercar. Figuring he was the oldest Corvette-owning celebrity alive, we asked him for an interview. Somewhat surprisingly, he agreed.
You see, Jack LaLanne is a top-rated celebrity. If you're old enough to remember black-and-white TV, you likely saw him every week on The Jack LaLanne Show. Even through the '80s, Jack was often seen with his famous smile, friendly tone, and inspiring personality, getting people off their couches and onto their living room floors for sit-ups, push-ups, and leg lunges.
More recently, Jack has promoted longevity with infomercials for his Jack LaLanne Power Juicer. He's an inventor, a seminar speaker, and a hero to many. He spoke with us last December from his company's office in Morro Bay, California.
"We've never been busier," Jack told us, describing his life with his wife and partner of 54 years, Elaine. "We've never been more successful in our lives than we are today. Everybody wants my lecture seminars, and man, we go, go, go. We're hardly ever home."
When Jack is home, he enjoys driving and posing for photographs with his C6. The car is finished in Magnetic Red Metallic over Ebony leather and is equipped with a four-speed automatic transmission. Jack tells us he enjoys manually shifting through the gears one redline visit after another. You see, he isn't a newcomer to performance. He loves how the Corvette accelerates, corners, steers, and generally outperforms every other car he's ever owned.
We started the interview this way:
VETTE Magazine: Mr. LaLanne?
Jack LaLanne: Mr. LaLanne couldn't make it. Jack came instead.
VM: What may we ask you?
JL: Anything. My life's an open book.
So we began asking Jack about his love affair with the Corvette. He told us it goes all the way back to 1953 and the car's introduction. He's owned four Vettes since, including a '53 roadster, a '97 LS1 coupe, and his current LS2 '05 coupe. Jack made sure we understood that the Corvette has always been a part of his life.
"I love the Corvette. I had the first one that ever came out. I think it was a '53. The first one. And man, it was something."
We had to calculate how long ago that was: 54 years. That sounds like a long time until one realizes Jack has been driving for 80 years. To us, that's a serious accomplishment. To Jack, it was another day of living with his cardinal rule: "If I can't please Jack LaLanne, then I'm a failure. What the hell are you going to be successful [at] if you can't please yourself?"
By 1953, Jack LaLanne had already been on TV for two years, bringing exercise into American homes. He drove his Corvette every day to the studio where his show was produced. "Oh, yeah, wherever I went, it went with me. Well, you know the people were talking about it, and I liked the looks of it. It was a sporty car," Jack told us.
We asked him what people thought of the '53 Corvette at the time. After all, it's easy today-five model-generations later-to take the very first Corvette for granted. To many, the car was merely a part of history. To Jack, it marked a proud moment in his career. "Well, it was a conversation piece," he told us. "You know, they were so different."
But alterity wasn't the early Vette's only defining trait. "The Corvette's always had a great name. Say 'Corvette' and everybody thinks of something really different and really fast and sporty."
We saw instantly the connection between Jack LaLanne and the Corvette. Both have the best physiques in the business. Both are household names. Both outperform the competition-not that there is any. With that in mind, we asked Jack if he preferred Corvettes for their well-sculpted bodies or their track-honed performance. "Oh, it's both," he laughed. "I like the way they look. They're different. You know, how many cars out there look like Corvettes?"
"Not too many," we agreed.Jack continued talking, "You want something nobody else has. You don't want an old look-alike thing, and that's why Corvettes have the reputation of being one of the fastest cars. For the money, honey, how can you beat a Corvette?"
We weren't going to argue with Jack LaLanne. After all, at 92, he could whip the VETTE editorial staff with both hands tied behind his back. We read Jack's biography. This is a man who set a world record of 1,033 push-ups in 23 minutes and later "commemorated the 'Spirit of '76' by swimming 1 mile in Long Beach Harbor, handcuffed, shackled, and towing 13 boats (representing the 13 original colonies) containing 76 people."
Jack has had every car imaginable, and he told us why the Corvette is still the best vehicle ever made. "You buy a Lamborghini or a Ferrari-one of those cars, they'll cost a couple hundred thousand [dollars], and they don't do much better than a Corvette. I've always had good cars, and a Corvette is one of the [best] cars I've had. I've had Lamborghinis, I've had Ferraris, I've had Stutz Blackhawks. You name it, I've had them. What did I spend on my Vette? Sixty grand? For the money, Corvette is tops."
We asked Jack what kind of exotic steel-skinned beauties he dreamed about well before the Corvette was envisioned as well as the earliest automobiles he could recall. "I've always dreamed about sports cars. Always . . . something sporty, something different. The first car I had was a Model T. You pushed it up the hill with your feet. Yeah, you know, you had to crank the thing and all that crap. I'll never forget getting in it. And then we had a '24 Chevrolet. I'll never forget that. The damn car stalled. We were taking a trip with my family and my brother told me-I was just a kid-told me to go out and crank it. So I cranked the damn thing, and it kicked and broke my arm."