Seinfeld borrows quirky Fort Dodge car for show
By JESSE MAJOR
When Jerry Seinfeld called Fort Dodge car collector Tom Donney and asked to borrow his green Swedish car, Donney couldn’t say no.
Seinfeld’s people called Donney three days before they wanted to feature his 1965 Saab Monte Carlo 850 on Seinfeld’s show “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.”
It was shot in Portland, Oregon.
“The show is about three characters,” said Donney. “Seinfeld, the comedian and the car.”
In the episode, the characters include Fred Armisen and Donney’s Saab.
It all started with a phone call four days before the shoot.
“My phone rang and it was a guy claiming he was with Seinfeld’s office,” said Donney. “They were looking for a particular Saab.”
It turned out Donney’s showroom-condition Saab, in Fort Dodge, where he runs Tom Donney Motors, was the only one close enough to Portland to make it to the video shoot on time.
But Donney’s green, two-stroke, three-cylinder Saab – that sounds like a popcorn maker – wasn’t the first choice.
“They had a car lined up months in advance,” Donney said. “Whoever it was, for whatever reason, they chickened out.”
Before Seinfeld used Donney’s car, Seinfeld’s people made sure Donney knew exactly what he was getting out of the once-in-a-lifetime deal.
“They go through expectations of what you will receive,” said Donney. “The bottom line is you don’t get to meet Jerry.”
Not one of the 32 car owners before had met Seinfeld.
But Donney met the comedian. He was also the first car contributor to drive the car during the video shoot.
Normally, the car owners don’t have anything to do with the shoot, but they’re asked to stay within driving distance in case the car breaks down.
In Donney’s case, crew members were so uncomfortable driving the car which, incidentally, has the type of engine found in lawn mowers, that they asked him to drive during the B-roll shoot on the day before Seinfeld drove the car.
B-roll is footage used in video that does not include people talking.
“The brakes aren’t very good and there’s not much power in the engine,” Donney said.
Being a part of the shoot was unique, he said.
“It’s a lot of fun just to be part of that. They were pretty skeptical.”
The B-roll shoot makes sure the car can handle the route. The original plan included a steep hill in Portland.
“There was only one hill we got caught on,” Donney said. “It was stop and go traffic up a steep hill.”
That hill wasn’t an option.
The next day, Donney woke up to a surprise: He was going to meet Seinfeld.
“Saturday morning I got a text that said, ‘Jerry wants to meet you.'”
Turns out, Seinfeld loved the car so much he asked to meet Donney.
Before Donney talked to him, though, he was told Seinfeld wasn’t a “people person.”
“He doesn’t like talking to strangers,” Donney said.
But Donney and Seinfeld spoke a common language: cars.
“I told him I had over 100 Saabs and we were instantly friends,” Donney said. “We stood there and talked for probably 15 minutes.”
Donney’s car is one of few cars on the show Seinfeld has actually liked. Seinfeld loves Saab.
“It sounds weird, it feels weird, it runs weird,” Seinfeld says in the show. “If you don’t like weird, Saab is not for you.”
In the show, Seinfeld makes it very clear what he thinks of the cars.
“Seinfeld is pretty animated on what he thinks of the cars,” Donney said.
Crew members told Donney it was one of their best shoots. That was because of the Saab.
“It’s just a fun car,” Donney said. “Every crew member came up afterward and said it was more fun than they had had on any shoot before.”