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Can a Toyota Prius Be Cool?

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Used 2005 Toyota Prius
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author photo by Tyler Hoover October 2017

When we last left the saga of my used Toyota Prius purchase, I was financially ahead with a car for the first time since starting my life as Oversteer's village idiot. After purchasing this 2005 example of Toyota's iconic hybrid for only $1,500 -- and after replacing its dead hybrid battery pack with a rebuilt unit -- I could have easily sold this car for double my money. Instead, I've decided to embark on an idiotic quest to make my Toyota Prius look cool.

I'm doing the unthinkable because I really think my Prius is attractive and interesting -- and I think it doesn't deserve all the hate thrown its way. In time, I believe this generation of Prius will become collectible, right alongside the Cadillac Escalade, as they were iconic vehicles when they were released (albeit for totally different reasons). The Prius brought the electric car into the mainstream -- and despite being an economy car, this little hybrid became a status symbol. Despite the luxury SUV craze sweeping the country, the Prius found its place in history -- and it's just as memorable. The original Volkswagen Beetle was similarly transformative to American culture, despite the muscle car era being in full swing. Fifty years later, the Beetle is just as recognizable as a Ford Mustang -- and it stirs the same amount of nostalgia.

If you think my opinion comes from sticking my tongue in a Prius battery socket too many times, it's only going to get worse from here. I've divided the process of making my Prius look cool into two parts, starting with the exterior. The first step in my conversion was installing lowering springs. Much to my surprise, the springs were readily available. I once again used the facilities of my mechanic, the car wizard, to get this done. Clearly, I'm deranged, as this ties up lift space and the car wizard's time, which further delays the progress of fixing my 2004 Bentley Continental GT.

While I did need some help from the wizard (for instance, he thought I would kill myself if I tried to use a spring compressor), I was again impressed by how easy the Prius is to work on. This is one of the few modern vehicles that feels like you're playing Legos with car parts. Everything comes apart and goes back together so easily, and nothing is very difficult to reach. With the Prius stanced, there's a practical aspect to consider: The lower ride height should reduce drag, and slightly increase MPG.

Of course, any MPG savings are canceled out by the heavier 17-inch alloy wheels I installed after completing the suspension upgrade. I was hoping to make up for this by mounting low-rolling-resistance tires, and I found a great deal on some Michelin Pilot Sports. This high performance rubber is traditionally found on serious sports cars -- and it also has a very low rolling resistance. This might be the first Prius in the world to sport these tires.

My final touch to the exterior was installing some custom smoked headlights with dark housings, which (with the stanced suspension and wheels) gives the car a more menacing presence. If Batman became worried about his environmental footprint, I'm sure he would buy this Prius from me in an instant.

I'll be focusing on the interior next, which is certainly the area with the biggest opportunity for improvement. I've gathered some unusual upholstery to shake things up -- along with a few other surprises. It's safe to say I'll have spent more money than the car is worth when it's all finished, but hopefully my Prius will win over the hearts and minds of car enthusiasts in the process.

Tyler Hoover went broke after 10 years in the car business and now sells hamburgers to support his fleet of needy cars. He lives in Wichita, Kansas.

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Used 2005 Toyota Prius
Used 2005 Toyota Prius
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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
Can a Toyota Prius Be Cool? - Autotrader