Briggs & Stratton 6-Wheel Hybrid

by Ben N on April 25, 2019

I was doing some work at Briggs & Stratton – an engine producer in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, when I stumbled on an amazing car! It’s a vintage 6-wheel hybrid!

Briggs & Stratton has a great museum at their main building. It tells the history of the company and showcases its roots in automobiles all the way up to modern lawn and garden equipment. There’s a fantastic display of go-karts and even the “Flyer”, the least expensive car ever made!

The Briggs & Stratton Hybrid

In a back corner of the museum is the Briggs & Stratton Hybrid. The car caught my eye because of the bright yellow color scheme and the fact that it has 6 Wheels! What was even stranger was that I instantly recognized the car! I’ve read articles about it before. About ten years ago, I built my first electric motorcycle using a Briggs & Stratton Etek electric motor. So, I was also researching the company and electric motors at that time.

Vintage home video of the Briggs & Stratton Hybrid.

Briggs built this car in about 1980, the golden age of jean-shorts. The body was fiberglass, the transmission from a Ford Pinto, and windshield and dash from a Volkswagen Scirocco. The overall look was designed by Kip Stevens, son of Milwaukee industrial designer Brooks Stevens, and the man responsible for the Excalibur. (I highly recommend reading INDUSTRIAL STRENGTH DESIGN. Great book! https://amzn.to/2UXoJu0 https://amzn.to/2UXoJu0)
The Stevens design studio also gave us the Oscar-Mayer Weinermobile, The Miller Beer logo, and most of the appliances in your parent’s and grand-parent’s kitchen!

Dual rear axles of the Hybrid.

But back to the car…. Although the hood was down, I was able to find some information about the drive system. The Briggs engine was an 18HP twin. That model was new at the time, and the car was in many ways a publicity stunt to show off the new engine. The electric motor was an 8HP Baldor. The two were connected by a Borg-Warner “Duo-Cam” automatic clutch. This allowed both the engine and motor to be used alone or together.*

The car’s engine, motor, and four-speed transmission are under the hood with a driveshaft connecting to the FRONT of the two rear axles. Only the front axel is driven. The rear axle free-wheels and is built as part of the battery box. The idea being that the entire battery box can disconnect, and easily roll-away, be replaced, or batteries hot-swapped! I wasn’t able to find any more information about the rear-axle battery swap. As far as I know, a second box and axle for battery swapping was never built.

It was a blast to get to see this vehicle in person. I wish it was featured more prominently and was better lit! It would have been great to see under the hood as well. For more about this car, please take a look at some links to existing information about it on the web.

Until next time, stay charged up!
-Ben Nelson

*How Stuff Works Article https://auto.howstuffworks.com/1980-briggs-and-stratton-hybrid-concept-car1.htm

Jalopnik article: https://jalopnik.com/the-company-that-made-your-lawnmower-engine-also-made-t-1789444149

Consumer Guide: https://blog.consumerguide.com/briggs-stratton-hybird/

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