Every motoring ‘journalist’ with a press pass and a MacBook Air loves to make predictions about which modern cars are going to become bonafide classics. Mustangs, okay probably yeah… Porsches 911’s duh… heck maybe even the Ford Flex if the boomers don’t collectively decide to crush them by 2030. But new cars have a major obstacle to becoming classics: they’re all forgettable as fuck.
Many of the cars we think of as ‘modern classics’ today have something in common—they were made when car makers had MAYBE 6 or 7 cars in their model lineup. Back in the day, my grandfather drove around in a BMW 2002tii, which is a sexy fucking car, and it’s probably the most memorable classic BMW for most people. But it was one of maybe three models in BMWs lineup at the time.
Today BMW has about 20 models in their lineup and M versions of almost every model. If we take Syndrome’s wisdom on this, if everyone is special, then nobody is.
What Makes a Modern Classic Car
So what makes a modern classic: well, I’ve developed three criteria that just so happen to perfectly bolster my argument for the Prius—but they make sense.
It has to have been made in pretty serious numbers. In order for a car to be on the road for long enough to become a classic, parts need to be around.
It has to be a total package. BMW straight 6s are amazing engines, so are Honda 4 cylinders… but only M cars and S2000s are really catching big bucks. Why? Because they’re immersive, purposely-designed cars. They’re a total package; everything meshes together to make a car that feels cohesive, and more importantly, unique.
- It has to have some link to popular culture. Boomer hippies love classic VWs, and boomer rednecks love the trucks they drove downtown to beat up the hippies. Classic car culture is completely driven by nostalgia; to be a future classic, a car has to be identifiable with its time of origin.
Some Classics Weren’t Cool
So back to the Prius. I’m not the only JM contributor to own one of these bad boys—Spencer (one of our less profane staff writers) had one too, and it’s literally the only reason I tolerate him. Not even lying; I fucking loved my Prius. It legitimately got 50mpg, which meant I could drive across two states for $20.
It was comfortable, it had a great stereo, and it wasn’t even half bad in the corners. You could drift it on lunch trays, and most importantly, there were several really well-designed weed hiding cubbies. Toyota created a punchline, but most Prius owners and automotive engineers would actually agree that what they really built was a damn masterpiece.
The Prius is an Excellent Car
The Prius is about as close to straight-up Alabama biology textbook intelligent design as anything the automotive industry has seen since 2000. First of all, it’s a packaging masterstroke. It’s not too big for spinsters and their cats. It’s not too small for a family with 2.2 kids. It’s a hatchback, so if you’re a weirdo like me, you can haul an entire mechanics toolbox in the back if need be… or maybe just a literal bale of, uh, herbs.
Because like… it is still a Prius. The dashboard was more futuristic than any Mercedes or Audi of the time, and back in 2004, it literally felt like a spaceship compared to every other car on the road.
The Prius was hands-down the vehicle that made owning an electric-ish car about being a high tech experience. The dashboard was ahead of its time. Even the weird little micro-penis gear shifter was ahead of its time. So much so that the entire damn industry copied it. So much of what was in the Prius from a design perspective shaped not just hybrids design—but new car design in general.
And we haven’t even talked about the powertrain! Oh, that sweet, sweet, terrible sounding powertrain. An Atkinson cycle engine will never sound good, but the Prius makes up for it by engaging stealth mode to bump your enemies out of your way in the Whole Foods parking lot. The engines are rock solid, the batteries don’t go wrong nearly as often as people think—and if they do, they can just be replaced with better modern ones. City driving in these things is surprisingly fun, and you’ll win a drag race against a 90s ford pickup.
Prius drivers got a bad reputation back in the day as being those annoying people who shame you for not bringing reusable grocery bags to the store. But honestly, every Prius driver I’ve met has been surprisingly chill. Growing up, my friend’s parents (who drove Priuses) were always the ones who didn’t care if we played music a bit loudly, and they might even come out and smoke a blunt with you on the back porch.
Prius drivers are usually just chill people who really don’t care that much about cars. But that doesn’t make them douchebags. Larry David drove a Prius in real life for years, and he’s literally the mascot of not giving a flying fuck what people think about you. I’d rather chill with him than some clout chasing Lamborghini-leasing individual who you know is secretly wearing a thong.
The Prius is a New Kind of Classic
The Prius, simply put, is an amazing car. It’s an iconic car; it’s a useful car, it’s practical, it’s a punchline. The Prius is a meme on wheels. It’s basically perfection. No, it’s not a driver’s car—but what everyone forgets is that classic cars always drive like shit compared to modern vehicles.
So if you want to buy a daily today that’ll be a classic tomorrow, break out your Little River Band CD, your Birkenstocks, and your bong—and find the cleanest low mileage Prius you can. In 30 years, it might be worth three whole bitcoins, and if it’s not, at least you can use it to haul the motor for your WRX build to and from your friend’s mom’s garage.
I’ve actually been looking on and off for one for a while—and if I see a clean one around, I do tend to get a tad envious. I’m prepared to eat my words on this one, dear readers, even if they taste like poor judgement.