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A hybrid car made in America 100 years before the Prius

Bonhams to offer the one-and-only landmark 1896 Armstrong Phaeton Hybrid at its Amelia Island Auction on March 10th

New York – With the dawn of the automobile America was among the vanguard in terms of innovation, and few places were more a hotbed of motoring development than New England. In 1896 the Armstrong Company of Connecticut created a gasoline-electric hybrid a full hundred years before the Toyota Prius. Now, the only example in existence is scheduled to be auctioned by Bonhams at Amelia Island on March 10th.

Designed by Harry Dey, the 1896 Armstrong Phaeton is the earliest known vehicle in the world to employ a modern-style hybrid drive. Furthermore, it is the earliest known vehicle to have electric self-starting and, as a car, displays many advanced features that would become adopted by the automotive industry in the decades to come. To see this pioneering marvel in action, click here to view a video.

first hybrid

1896 Armstrong Phaeton Gasoline-Electric Hybrid, designed by H.E. Dey

  • The sole existing model
  • First known modern hybrid-driven car in the world
  • First known car with electric self-starter in the world
  • Electrically operated clutch
  • Regenerative electric motor assist
  • Can propel itself by electricity alone, by gasoline alone, or in combination
  • 6.5-liter, two-cylinder gasoline engine with dynamo-wound flywheel
  • One of the oldest operational American vehicles –of any kind– in the world
  • Referenced in many contemporary publications circa 1896
  • Officially dated as 1896 by the prestigious Veteran Car Club of Great Britain
  • Eligible for the London to Brighton Run
  • An extremely rare, historical treasure

“As the world leaders in the sale of pioneering motorcars, Bonhams is delighted to offer a machine of such outright historical significance,” says Evan Ide, Bonhams Motoring Specialist. “It is our great pleasure to have been appointed to present this national treasure – one of the oldest American cars ever known to be offered at auction. Seldom does an opportunity to acquire such an important piece of history arise. As the sole-existing example, this 19th Century motorcar is a machine of monumental importance.”

Bonhams Amelia Island Auction will take place at Amelia Island, Florida on Thursday, March 10th. For more information and to register to bid, visit


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