2001 Toyota Prius SedanEnlarge Photo
Sometimes, people collect the strangest things. Not to rain on anybody's parade, but Cabbage Patch kids, and old cell phones, really?
Jay Leno, famous car collector as well as TV host has a prediction for what may come next: the Toyota Prius.
Wait, don't car collectors love flashy muscle cars? And sports cars?
Leno argues in a Business Insider interview published last Friday, that people collect cars that bring back memories of their youth. Other , experts on collector-car values say much the same thing. "It's as much about the memories as it is about the car," Leno said.
A lot of millennials were raised in Priuses, and will have strong childhood memories of silently creeping along in traffic, sneering at adjacent commuters.
It doesn't hurt that the Prius has been rated one of the most reliable cars over time, so there are plenty of old ones out there.
2004 Toyota PriusEnlarge Photo
Car collectors also gravitate towards cars that represented turning points in automotive technology or design, and the Prius does that in spades.
In 1998, it was the first hybrid to go on sale in Japan. The first Honda Insight beat it to market in the United States, and that car already has a cult-like following of hypermilers and curmudgeons who like to remind other drivers that no car has beat it yet on pure gas mileage (not mpg-E that counts electrons.) Hardly any kids grew up in the single passenger seat of an early Insight, though.
The Prius was the first full-hybrid car that showed a generation of drivers that an electric motor could power a car down the road and take the load off the engine when the engine was at its least efficient. It inspired a generation of drivers who found that cars didn't have to operate they way they had always expected—and could save them a lot of money in gas if they didn't.
2001 Toyota Prius interiorEnlarge Photo
Leno's focus seems to be on the first generation Prius, a small, barely-remembered sedan, not the glassy hatchback that has become so familiar. He's right in that it was the Prius sedan was the first car that brought the new technology to the road. It's also much rarer than the later hatchbacks, which will likely increase its collectibility.
It gets lower grades for nostalgia, since fewer people were aware of it. Leno could be right that the early sedans will be the first collectible Priuses. The Prius could also follow the model of collectible Corvettes: The first generation wasn't very good, and was pretty rare. Later models with the V8 and two tone paint are much more popular among collectors (though not always as valuable.)
If you're a car nut and a green car fan, consider yourself put on notice—now may be the time to buy the classic Prius of your dreams.