General Motors First Hybrid; from 1969!

A few years ago, retro was all the rage, with car designers and marketing teams recalling American nostalgia for the days when flashly muscle cars were common and gas cost but a strawpenny a gallon. But even back then, there were a few forward thinkers at General Motors who had at least a passing concern for gas mileage and pollutant control. The Stir-Lec 1 was a hybrid-electric car based on an Opel Kadett, with a small petrol motor recharging 14 acid-lead batteries which in turn powered an electric motor that drove the car. Wild stuff, huh?

So wild, in fact, that the car not only never made it into production, but apparently all memory and record of it was destroyed or forgotten. This car uses the same premise that has made the Prius so popular, thirty years before the Prius ever made it to the road. The whole OPEC fuel crisis and subsequent gas inflations could have been solved, pushing GM to the forefront of fuel efficiency and green driving, had this car ever actually been made. According to the advertisement, which came out of a 1969 issue of Hot Rod Magazine, this car had a top speed of 55 mph (no mention of range) and would “meet the demands of the future.”

If only.

It seems likely to me that even GM had forgotten about this car, but it goes to show that GM and the other Big Three are not necessarily the evil empire the media sometimes portrays them as. But when the consumer wants a big car with a big engine, trying to sell them a crude rendering of an electric-hybrid car is going to send them to another dealership.

On a final note, look at the end of the advertisement, and notice how many of those brands are now defunct. Oldsmobile, Pontiac, Allison, Detroit Diesel, Fisher Body…so sad.


Christopher DeMorro

A writer and gearhead who loves all things automotive, from hybrids to HEMIs, can be found wrenching or writing- or else, he's running, because he's one of those crazy people who gets enjoyment from running insane distances.