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Jay Leno and Kelly Rowland talk cars while riding in a $1 million Bentley

When you hear the name Kelly Rowland, you probably think of the 1990s pop group Destiny's Child. But the singer, songwriter and actress, who has sold over 27 million records and won four Grammy awards, has a lesser-known passion: cars.

Over the years, Rowland has come to own a variety of luxury cars, including a Bentley Continental GT, a Jaguar F-Type, a Lotus Elise and a Range Rover — a surprising number for someone who was raised without access to a car.

Growing up in Atlanta and Houston, Rowland's family got around via public transportation. "We took the bus and had the train," she says. "That really inspired me to work my butt off because I always wanted a car."

The 1931 8-liter Bentley Mulliner was unveiled at the 1930 Olympia Motor Show in London, one year into the Great Depression. It was the last car W.O. Bentley designed for Bentley Motors.
The 1931 8-liter Bentley Mulliner was unveiled at the 1930 Olympia Motor Show in London, one year into the Great Depression. It was the last car W.O. Bentley designed for Bentley Motors.

On the latest episode of CNBC's "Jay Leno's Garage," comedian and car enthusiast Jay Leno chauffeurs Rowland around in a 1931 8-liter Bentley Mulliner, the largest and most luxurious Bentley of its time. It's a car that Leno says "befits [Rowland's] status as a lady" and "speaks of her place in the industry."

The seven-seater car, which was built after World War I, was the last completely new model by Bentley before the company's financial collapse and forced sale to Rolls-Royce in 1931. It can reach speeds of 100 mph and was known in its heyday for its large engine and ability to not make noise.

Only 100 cars of the type were made between 1930 and 1932. That scarcity has bred high value — today the Bentley Mulliner is valued at $1 million.


Singer and songwriter Kelly Rowland and Jay Leno drive around in a 1931 8-liter Bentley Mulliner.
Singer and songwriter Kelly Rowland and Jay Leno drive around in a 1931 8-liter Bentley Mulliner.

As Leno drives Rowland around the LA area, Rowland discusses what sparked her love for cars. It started with her first one, a BMW. "I wanted to be like ... Kelly or Donna from [the TV show] '90210,'" she says.

Rowland later fell in love with the Range Rover when her mother worked as a nanny for a wealthy family who owned the car. She eventually bought herself one.

Rowland says there's a connection between her love for cars and her love for music: Driving helps spark her creativity. In fact, she has composed songs in the car, or what she calls "a rolling studio."

"I feel like I got some really good ideas [there], like it was always something going on on the street," Rowland says, describing how driving has helped her generate ideas. It is where she goes to "catch a vibe."

When not composing in the car, she also sings — especially to Britney Spears or other 1990s artists. Driving, Rowland says, "is the best way to listen to music."

CNBC's "Jay Leno's Garage" airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. EDT.