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Comedian Jay Leno says 'all modern cars are good,' but electric cars 'will be the future'

Dalvin Brown

Comedian Jay Leno knows his car history: He's tinkered with a Depression-era Ford, owns a Lamborghini from the 1960s and likes to point out the strengths of a notorious Detroit lemon.

The stand-up and former "Tonight Show" host stopped by USA TODAY last week where he discussed the past and future of cars, and offered a bit of wisdom for people on the market for a new vehicle. 

Over the years, the star of "Jay Leno's Garage" on CNBC has amassed a multimillion-dollar collection of more than 250 vehicles, including a 1994 McLaren F1 that he says is the greatest car of the 20th century, a 1969 Lamborghini Miura S and a 1970 Mazda Cosmo which is one of the first rotary-powered sports cars, according to Leno

He has a 1954 Jaguar XK120M Coupe, which was one of the most successful sports cars of its era, and a Bentley Speed Six that helped establish the company's racing tradition in the late 1920s.

So what does a person who has an extensive assemblage of motorcycles, iconic daily drivers and Smithsonian-worthy vehicles look for in a car?

"I like cars that are noble failures and cars that were ahead of their time in their time," Leno said. He used the Chevrolet Corvair as an example. 

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The notorious compact car saw two generations of production from 1960 to 1969. It was propelled to fame by Ralph Nader in 1965 when the attorney wrote a scathing book, Unsafe At Any Speed, in which he went through a litany of ways that cars are unsafe – from lack of restraint systems to unpadded dashboards.

Leno, who acknowledged the controversy surrounding the car, said, "To me, the Corvair was the most innovative car Chevrolet ever built. It was brilliant — one of the most European (looking) American cars ever made."

"You can find them from $800 to $900. The best one in the world can't be more than 20 grand," Leno said.

Another vintage vehicle the comedy legend is a big fan of is the 1934 Ford Pickup truck. 

Leno said it was the first car he ever owned. "I bought it when I was 14 and spent two years working on it, getting ready for when I got my license."

While shooting an episode of his car series, he said that the car now sits somewhere in the northeast, near Andover, Massachusetts. "Hopefully I'll find that one," he said in the 1-minute clip. 

While Leno has a horde of well-kept antique cars in a custom-built bunker in Burbank, California, the self-proclaimed "big car lover" also has an affinity for modern vehicles with high-tech features.

"I have a Tesla Model S. That's the future," Leno told USA TODAY.  "I predict a child born today, most likely by the time they're 18, may not have ever ridden in an internal combustion car. I think electric will be the future."

The Tesla isn't the only EV Leno has in his collection.

He also owns a 1909 Baker Electric which he said can travel 80 miles on a charge. 

"It wasn't until recently with new battery technology that you get hundreds and hundreds of miles (on a charge)," Leno said. "I think we'll see a thousand-mile range pretty soon," Leno said about battery-powered cars. 

The stand-up said that nowadays, you don't have to be a car aficionado to pick out a quality vehicle that can stand the test of time. 

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"All modern cars are good. There really aren't any bad cars anymore," Leno said. 

"Mufflers don't rust out anymore; cars don't rust anymore. They're made with stainless steel and different alloys. So almost all automobiles are pretty good, which means when they get 10 to 15 years old they're still good."

Follow USA TODAY reporter Dalvin Brown on Twitter: @Dalvin_Brown.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Comedian Jay Leno says 'all modern cars are good,' but electric cars 'will be the future'