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Sarabjit Gandhi's car is a dream from a science-fiction utopia.

The two doors open upward like the hatch on a space capsule. With both doors unlatched, the car looks like a seagull preparing for flight.

A single wiper anchored to the roof keeps the massive front windscreen clean. The windshield slopes at a dramatic 60 degrees, giving the wedge-shaped car a sleek, Lego-like angularity.

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What's under the hood makes the car a wonder.

An 80-horsepower Honda Goldwing motorcycle engine is fuelled by both gasoline and electricity: More than two decades ago, Mr. Gandhi invented, designed, and built by hand a hybrid car.

When critics called it unroadworthy, he proved them wrong by driving across the continent; the car then went on display at Expo 86 in Vancouver.

Instead of revolutionizing the automobile industry, however, Mr. Gandhi's innovative car was forgotten. It wound up parked in a workshop on his acreage in a Victoria suburb. Except for the occasional silent spin around the block, it has remained under wraps for most of the past 21 years. It was a car ahead of its time.

"The world wasn't ready for me," Mr. Gandhi said.

He made the pronouncement with neither disgust nor resignation, but as a statement of fact. It is hard to disagree with the sentiment.

The hybrid Prius has become king of the taxi fleet in Victoria, whooshing tourists to their destinations in quiet, fuel-efficient comfort.

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While the hybrid may have lost some its novelty, the one-of-a-kind car still has its appeal. And after much persuasion, Mr. Gandhi has agreed to put his creation on display at the Blethering Place Collector Car Festival in Oak Bay on Sunday.

The inventor, a silver-haired Gyro Gearloose whose easygoing manner and quick wit camouflage a fertile imagination, will be on hand to answer questions. It will be like asking Henry Ford about his first automobile had Mr. Ford not become the most successful automaker in the world.

Mr. Ford's first automobile had a two-cylinder, gasoline-fuelled engine capable of reaching 32 kilometres an hour. He called it the Quadricycle, because it rolled on four bicycle tires. It had no reverse.

Mr. Gandhi's first automobile was capable of reaching 80 km/h. He called it the Gaselle because he could not resist a good pun. It had five speeds, as well as a reverse gear.

It was a car ahead of its time, but also behind the times. The world's first hybrid car is credited to Ferdinand Porsche, who introduced a petrol-electric vehicle in 1902, just six years after the Quadricycle first sputtered into motion.

The Gaselle was built at a Shell service station owned by Mr. Gandhi in Victoria's Fairfield neighbourhood. He deliberately chose a space-age look.

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"The idea was to make it futuristic to show the world these technologies are realities," Mr. Gandhi said. He was a gasoline peddler working to put himself out of business by advancing the electric car.

Mr. Gandhi was born 57 years ago in Delhi, India, where his father owned an oil refinery. Sarabjit buried his head in technical manuals as a boy, many of them sent from the United States by an uncle who worked as an engineer for Mr. Ford's company in Detroit.

Early on, he felt the internal-combustion engine was a dinosaur waiting to be made extinct by superior technologies.

After moving to Canada, he continued tinkering with conversion and hybrid projects.

He also imported and sold a handful of ComutaCars, a two-seat, electric vehicle manufactured in Florida. They were billed as costing just pennies a kilometre to operate and could be plugged into a 110-volt household outlet.

He has one parked in his garage. It looks like a pie wedge from the Trivial Pursuit game. Next to it is a Lotus - "my James Bond car," he said.

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The announcement that Vancouver would play host to what was at first known as Transpo 86 sent Mr. Gandhi scribbling with pencil on paper.

A challenge was issued to manufacturers to produce alternative-fuel vehicles, which were to take part in a World Energy Autocross. The idea was to have a motorcade traverse the continent to promote energy awareness, as well as the world's fair.

"Mack Truck was developing a truck that ran on methanol, but it overheated," he said. "GM's car blew up on the track. Ford had other problems. The idea kind of fizzled out."

Only a single vehicle made it to the starting line at the United Nations in Manhattan.

An aluminum roll cage protected the two-seat passenger compartment, while the shell was made of Egyptian cotton hardened by epoxy resin, a sturdy but lightweight design used in aviation.

The low-riding, fawn-coloured vehicle with an Ultrasuede interior pulled quietly away from the curb on July 30, 1986, heading north to Montreal, before steering west through Toronto to Chicago, St. Louis, Denver and San Francisco. Mr. Gandhi then headed north, taking the ferry from Port Angeles, Wash., to Victoria, where he drove to mile zero at the foot of Douglas Street before catching a ferry to the mainland. He arrived at the Expo site in downtown Vancouver on Aug. 16.

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He claims the journey is the first transcontinental trek made by a hybrid car. At Expo, the odometer read 8,050 kilometres. After the fair, the car was displayed at the Royal B.C. Museum before going into storage.

Meanwhile, he continues to tinker with his car. At high cruising speeds, it runs on gas while the batteries recharge. (They also recharge when the vehicle rolls downhill and when it idles.)

He bristled at the suggestion the Gaselle may not be up to the jaunt to the car show.

"We won't tow it," he said. "We will certainly be driving it."

On Tuesday, the odometer read 8,406. Another 14 kilometres will be added early Sunday morning and, if all goes well, another 14 will be added on the quiet journey home.

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