If you’re looking around for future collector cars, you have the tough job of anticipating tastes of the future. Sometimes, it’s easier if you narrow it down to one automaker, like we did with Ford vehicles of the recent past.
Beyond that, you have to think about what will inspire nostalgia in people about 20 years from now. Famed car collector and former “Tonight Show” host Jay Leno reminded everyone of that in an April 2018 interview with Business Insider. And Leno had a few surprises up his sleeve.
Along with a world-class roadster, Leno’s future collector’s items veered toward hybrid and electric models. Here are the cars Leno said are likely to become in-demand classics in the future.
1. Mazda MX-5 Miata
Leno highly endorsed the Mazda Miata, saying it would likely be “the Ford Mustang of the next generation.” Since both are fun to drive, look cool, and have sold in reasonably high volumes, it makes sense.
Meanwhile, there are so many limited-edition collector Miatas that Mazda has done some of the work for people. We’d say you should rule out any MX-5 with automatic transmission, but it’s hard to know what the future holds.
Next: This car is no show-stopper.
2. Toyota Prius
It doesn’t look or drive like a winner, but Leno believes in the collectability of the original Toyota Prius for its analog quality. Like a cassette tape or CD, folks might look at the hybrids from around 2001 and wax nostalgic.
“People will say, ‘Look how simple it is compared to the modern stuff,'” Leno mused. And who knows, maybe air quality will be so bad that gas-guzzling muscle cars won’t be allowed road time. But a 2001 Prius will still probably get above 40 mpg.
Next: GM nearly erased this car from existence, and remaining models are priced accordingly.
3. General Motors EV1
This car is so famous it has a movie and a website devoted to its memory. In brief, EV1 was the first electric model from Detroit in the modern era (1996). By 2002, GM got back all the cars it had leased and unceremoniously crushed them.
As a result, the few that survived became huge collector cars. Leno said someone tried to sell him one in April 2018 for $440,000. We wonder what will they be worth in 2038.
Next: Don’t sleep on the original Tesla sports car.
4. Tesla Roadster
With so much controversy surrounding the release of the Tesla Model 3, it’s easy to forget about the company’s original two-seat sports car. That Tesla Roadster debuted in 2008 to plenty of acclaim and even more curiosity.
Reliability was a problem (if you can believe it), but it’s impossible to find anything quite like the Lotus-based, all-electric Roadster in automotive history. Even if Tesla creates the world’s quickest car with the new version, Jay Leno’s idea about early electric cars becoming valuable makes perfect sense here.
Next: This sharp plug-in hybrid should also be a collector’s item down the road.
5. Fisker Karma
While Leno didn’t call out the Fisker Karma by name, his idea about first-gen EVs certainly applies to this model. Hailed as “stunning” and “gorgeous” in a 2011 Car and Driver review, the Karma turned out to be problematic before Fisker went bankrupt. (It was later reborn as Karma Automotive, with this model becoming Revero.)
Nonetheless, the Karma never lost its sharp look or its ability to go as many as 50 miles on electric power. For the high-end EV collector, this model will likely become a pricey keeper. (Caveat: You need to find one that works.)
Next: This Toyota EV is a rare find, indeed.
6. Toyota RAV4 EV (first generation)
While a few Californians might be aware of the recent Toyota RAV4 EV (2012-14), the original model (1997-2003) is quite the unicorn. Tom Hanks owned a navy blue one back in the day, and a very devoted owners’ club still existed for the vehicle as of 2012.
In a 2010 close-up look at an ’02 RAV4 EV, Green Car Reports reported at least 300 went to consumers. So where are they now — and where is Hanks’s model? Whoever can find out would have quite the collector’s item.
Next: An electric Ford Ranger would really turn heads in the future.
7. Ford Ranger EV
No one would doubt the collectability of an electric Ford pickup from the turn of the century. In a YouTube video from a 2008 car show, the proud owner of one of these trucks offered a walk-around of his Ranger EV.
“EV: That’s what’s different about it,” the host said, completely serious. Though Leno didn’t mention this one, it falls right under the category of rare pieces from the early days of electric cars. The Ranger EV featured 74 miles of range and was leased from 1998-2002.
Next: Honda also had an electric experiment from the late ’90s.
8. Honda EV Plus
One final rare bird from the development stages of electric cars is the Honda EV Plus. Made at the same time as the Ranger EV and GM EV1, this model has a lengthy and detailed history on the automaker’s press site.
In the end, a limited number made it to market between 1997-1999 and featured over 100 miles of range. It may not be EV1-level cool, but collectors would marvel over — and pay well — for one of these down the road if Leno’s theory holds.
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