Jay Leno’s Advice to Car Collectors


Jay Leno writes a column for Popular Mechanics that you may have read, especially if you have an interest in classic or collectible cars. In addition to his comedic talents, Jay is of course one of the great car enthusiasts, and his thoughts are always worth reading. For the May issue, he talked about what makes cars collectible and which ones might be valuable in the future.

The gist is:

  • Buy cars you like; don’t buy them as an investment.
  • Buy cars that are simple, like the original Miata; technically innovative, like the first Prius; or styling breakthroughs, like the first-generation Taurus.
  • Buy styling goofs, like the Aztek, or popular “nerd cars” like the AMC Pacer and Gremlin.
  • Buy cars that will generate nostalgia: the Cadillac CTS-V with standard 6-speed, or the Hummer (“the ’59 Cadillac of 2025”).
  • Avoid all newer Ferraris, which will cost you an arm and a leg to repair.

1988 Buick Reatta

Now we’ll add our two cents. First, don’t just jump in, but get smart about the car collecting field and investigate current values. It’s easy to get burned.

There are lots of online and print resources you can rely on—e.g., blogs like Duffy’s Collectible Cars, print mags like Hemmings Motor News, Automobile Quarterly, and Collectible Automobile, and sites with pricing info like NADA’s Classic Car Pricing, which gives data on collectibles, special interest cars, exotic and muscle cars, etc. Listed are cars from Alfas and Allards to Zimmers.

1990 Mazda Miata

1990 Mazda Miata

Implicit in Jay’s advice is another admonition: Buy newer cars and wait for the value to accrue. Unless you’ve got lots of cash, leave the early Cobras and the Packards to the pros. The collectible market is like any other: Right now, it’s mostly in decline, except for the really high-end cars, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad time to buy. Here’s one collector’s list of collectibles over the past 25 years.

Trust your instincts and your research!

Have you ever bought a “collectible car,” either because you loved it or because you thought it would appreciate? Tell us about it.


1 Comment

  1. That’s definitely a hard question to wrap your head around; Which cars built today will be the “new” classics in 25 years. I mean, can you really look at a Ford Taurus and (with a straight face) say it will be a collectible classic? Did Jay really use “styling breakthrough” and “Taurus” in the same sentence? :)

    I do agree with the comments in theory though. Simple and unique will retain their value many years to come. How about the Crossfire? Or maybe the Chrysler 300? The Prius I can see and maybe the new Beetle. Or the BMW Z3.

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