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Junkyard Gem: 2003 Toyota Prius Sedan

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Despite being beaten by Honda in the race to sell the first production hybrid-electric cars in the United States (the first Insights hit American streets as 2000 models), the larger and less silly-looking Toyota Prius ended up wiping the floor with the Insight in the hybrid sales battle that took place when the first 2001 models appeared here. The first generation of Prius sold here was available only as a four-door sedan with an unfortunate resemblance to the Toyota Echo; its hatchback successor appeared as a 2004 model. Here's one of the last of the Prius sedans, found in a Denver car graveyard recently.

This car's interior looks like it's about 20 months old, not 20 years.

The body is nearly as nice. Why is this car in a place like this?

We can assume that something catastrophically expensive went wrong with this car's powertrain, probably combined with the costly-to-replace hybrid battery pack going bad at the same time.

This car will be a bonanza for a junkyard shopper looking to revive the worn-out interior of a 300,000-mile first-generation Prius.

Hybrids are no big deal today, but this car was one of just three gasoline-electric models available in the United States when it was new (the other two were Hondas: the Insight and the Civic Hybrid). More competitors soon got into the hybrid game; Ford introduced the Escape Hybrid as a 2005 model, while the Saturn Vue Green Line appeared in the 2007 model year (GM also offered a "mild hybrid" version of the Silverado in 2004).

2003 was the biggest sales year for the first-generation Prius in the United States, with nearly 25,000 leaving showrooms that year. The roomier second-generation Prius sold much better, with sales first cracking the 100,000-unit mark for the 2005 model year. The Prius sedan is a rare sight today.

Transportation is finally evolving.

The Prius went on sale in Japan in late 1997.

Today, even Toyota's mighty flagship is a hybrid-electric machine.