If you’re in the market for a classic car with an eco twist you might surprise everyone by not showing up with a Prius or Volt and instead go for a model that is about as old as your great granny.
The model will go under the hammer on March 10 at the Amelia Island sale in Florida, where Bonhams wants to fetch anything between $175,000 and $275,000 for an 1896 Armstrong Phaeton. It has been developed by a gentleman called Harry Dey at the end of the 19th century, and serves as one of the final survivors of a pioneering genre of automobile. That’s because this one is one of the earliest known gas-electric hybrids ever made, even though it looks like a carriage with the horses taken out for a meal. It packs a 6.5-liter two-cylinder engine fueled by gasoline and the dynamo is used to charge an onboard battery, which delivers the electricity to start the internal combustion engine, to power the electric lamps and the electric clutch of the semi-automatic transmission. Since the latter is electric, there’s also no clutch pedal.
The driver will use a very modern gear selection process – there’s a selector on the steering column. And believe it or not, the hybrid can run on electric power alone, gas or in the usual hybrid mode. And even more interesting, Holman Engineering had to reinforce the carriage wheels as the torque of this ahead of its time gas-electric powertrain was too much for them. And believe it or not, this piece of marvelous automotive technology is actually in perfect working condition.