Talk about a piece of automotive history.
An 1896 Armstrong Phaeton, likely the world’s first hybrid vehicle, is going up on the auction block on Thursday, March 10th as part of Bonham’s Amelia Island Auction in Florida. Oh, and by the way, it is still drivable.
To say the Armstrong Phaeton was a technological marvel for its day it’s putting it mildly. This 19th century car-like contraption pre-dated Cadillac’s self-starter by 16 years.
The sole Phaeton ever built was the brainchild of Harry E. Dey and built by the Armstrong Company for the Roger Mechanical Carriage Company. The powertrain features both a gasoline powered, 6.5-liter, two-cylinder engine and a dynamo flywheel connected to an onboard battery. The dynamo charges the battery, producing the electricity need to start the engine. The dynamo also provides the ignition spark that operates the car’s electric lamps. Dey also gave the Armstrong a three-speed reverse semi-automatic transmission. Since it’s powered by electricity, it doesn’t need a clutch pedal.
Though it was driven regularly, the car remained at Armstrong’s Bridgeport facility until 1963, when a worker moved the flood-damaged vehicle to his home garage. It ended up in England where it received a partial restoration and then was eventually brought back to the U.S. by its current owner where it was fully restored by Holman Engineering in Massachusetts.
The funny thing about the Phaeton is that it was pretty hard on itself. The torque of the gas-electric powertrain damaged the wheels on more than one occasion. So Holman Engineering reinforced the wheels to put it in its current good working condition.
The Armstrong is expected to go for somewhere between $175,000 and $275,000 when it crosses the block.