From Preston Tucker to John DeLorean, automotive history is rife with Henry Ford wannabes. Now comes a most unlikely auto entrepreneur: Benjamin Rosen, the venture capitalist and chairman of Compaq Computer. He wants to make an electric car, contending that "the internal-combustion engine is a dud."

Rosen foresees a seismic technological shift letting a new entrant compete in the car biz. He's also counting on Detroit not meeting California laws requiring 10% zero-emission cars by 2003. Another market: the Northeast, which may impose similar mandates.

Rosen says brother Harold will be CEO but won't disclose where the car will be built or how it will be distributed. "It's way too premature to discuss," he says. But he expects to have a power train by yearend and the car on the road by 1996. His wife, Alexandra, suggests calling it the Rosen-Royce.

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