Saturday, September 30, 2023


Jay Leno honors Walmart, recreates founder’s 1979 Ford F-150

By James Raia
Jay Leno needs another vehicle like he needs another pair of jeans and a new denim shirt. Sam Walton, the founder of Walmart, could have used a car but he preferred a pickup truck – and only one.

But the comedian and renowned collector of hundreds of vehicles and the frugal founder of Walmart both knew about business and marketing and a good truck.

Sam Walton's 1979 Ford F-150 pickup truck in front of the orginal Walmart in Bentonville, Arkansas.
Sam Walton’s 1979 Ford F-150 pickup truck in front of the original Walmart in Bentonville, Arkansas.

Which is why Walmart and Leno have collaborated to reimagine the late Walton’s 1979 Ford F-150.

Using a 2021 Ford F-150, the project will celebrate the debut of Leno’s line of car care and detailing products at Walmart beginning in early 2021.

Walton cherished his battered truck. Among the entrepreneur’s legacy is a tale about why Walton continued to drive the Ford F-150 when he could afford any vehicle he wanted.

“What am I supposed to haul my dogs around in, a Rolls-Royce?” Walton said when asked about his vintage truck. It remains on display at the Walmart Heritage Museum in Bentonville, Arkansas.

Jay Leno's 2021 Ford F-150 pickup truck customized to honor the 1979 Ford F-150 owned by Sam Walton, founder of Walmart.
Jay Leno’s 2021 Ford F-150 pickup truck customized to honor the 1979 Ford F-150 owned by Sam Walton, the founder of Walmart.

There’s nothing new about making a new truck look old. But the new Ford F-150 is painted the same red and white two-tone color combination as Walton’s beast. It even has Walton’s dog boxes in the bed.

The bespoke F-150 white steelie-style pieces are painted white to match, as well. They’re wrapped around white-letter tires, just like Walton’s truck.

Leno customized the truck as he thought Walton would have preferred it. But the new F-150 has some exceptions, like leather seating and other amenities the retailer would have determined unnecessary.

“We matched it exactly as what I think he would have liked,” said Leno of the icon who died in 1992. “I know Sam was not a fancy guy. He probably wouldn’t have gone for the leather interior and all that stuff, but we built it up,” Leno said on his YouTube show, Leno’s Garage.

According to legend, Walton always favored simplicity. He drove his 1979 Ford F-150 as an ideally reliable form of transportation. He used it for hunting and fishing trips and drove it to various Walmart stores.

Alan Dranow, the curator of the Walmart Heritage Museum, called Walton’s truck a “symbol of humility and frugality.”


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James Raia, a syndicated columnist in Sacramento, California, publishes a free weekly automotive podcast and electronic newsletter. Sign-ups are available on his website, He can be reached via email:



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