Toronto auto enthusiasts arrived hours early Thursday morning to line up — $1,000 down payments in hand — to be among the first to order a Tesla Model 3, an electric luxury car that won't be unveiled until later Thursday night.

The car, which has been shrouded in secrecy, will be unveiled at 11:30 p.m. ET at the company's Los Angeles design studio. But starting Thursday, the car-maker began to accept $1,000 down payments from customers keen to order one.

Lines formed early at both Toronto Tesla locations this morning. In some cases a few hundred people were in line by the time the staff began processing orders. 

Tesla Model 3 to be unveiled Thursday night0:26

"It speaks to the cool factor that Tesla has garnered," said Michael Bettencourt, the editorial director for auto publisher Performance Publications Media Group. 

"It also speaks to how Tesla really offers everything. Everybody knows that their pure electric vehicles are great for the environment, zero emissions. But they're also great performance-wise and they're also really good looking cars."

So why all the fuss about the Model 3?

With a price tag of about US$35,000, the Model 3 will be Tesla's first attempt at delivering a mass-market electric car. And despite the price, Tesla is touting it as a luxury model, on par with Mercedes and Audi. 

The Model 3 is believed to be a sedan and a smaller, simpler version of its Model S (a sedan with a $US101,000 price tag). The Model 3 is also expected to have a driving range of about 320 kilometres.  

Twitter user Stéphane Corlosquet (@scorlosquet) said he arrived before 9 a.m. at the Lawrence Avenue East location. 

At about 10 a.m. he tweeted "line is moving, first people have signed up."

Shortly after that, he announced the company had confirmed his reservation. 

The Model 3 is not expected to begin production until next year and may not start shipping models until 2019, according to some reports.