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World’s Oldest Running Car Up for Sale at Auction

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De Dion Bouton Et Trepardoux Dos-a-Dos Steam The world’s oldest running car can be yours if you win it in the auction scheduled for Oct. 7 in Hershey, PA. The pre-auction estimates for the car’s price range from $2 million to $2.5 million.

The De Dion Bouton et Trepardoux Dos-a-Dos Steam Runabout was built in 1884, before the gasoline engine was invented, and runs on a steam engine. It can reach a top speed of 38 miles per hour, has no gas or brake pedals, and has to be controlled by the driver’s hands. It can go for 20 miles on one tank (40 gallons) of water.

The De Dion was originally named “La Marquise” after the mother of Count de Dion, the wealthy entrepreneur who was the car’s engineer. This car is one of only four or five De Dion quadricycles made, and could be afforded in 1884 only by the very rich. It was in the first automobile race, in 1887, and was a Pebble Beach Concours double award winner in 1997.

The car is nine-feet long, weighs 2,100 pounds, and seats four. Its sophisticated vertical boiler, which consists of concentric rings and can be steamed in 45 minutes, is what makes it different from road-going locomotives that date back to 1770.

The car was owned by one family for 81 years and has had only four owners in 127 years. The last time it was sold was in 2007, when the now-deceased Texas collector John O’Quinn bought it at auction for $3.5 million in a sale by Gooding & Company at Pebble Beach.

According to Jonathan Welsh, writing for The Wall Street Journal blog Driver’s Seat,

It may be fairly easy to understand why collectors might pay millions for rare Ferrari racing cars that were winning big races when the buyers themselves were children, reading motorsport magazines and building model cars. But would the same people be interested in a horseless carriage more than 125 years old?

There’s an old rule in car collecting that people want to buy the cars they admired when they were too young to drive and lacked the money to afford them. People who were in high school when this car was turning heads are long deceased, so the market could be thin. Still, the car is desirable because of its age, rarity and the fact that it still functions. Indeed it recently completed four London to Brighton runs, which are racing events for the earliest cars.

However, Stefan Lombard reports in The New York Times blog Wheels that there are other types of buyers:

‘A vehicle like this appeals to a variety of collectors, not just automobile collectors,’ said Alain Squindo, a specialist with RM, in an interview. ‘Anyone with an interest in steam technology or industrial history will recognize the significance of the car.’

RM Auctions reports that writer David Burgess-Wise said, “The only older functioning vehicle is the 1875 Grenville […] (basically a powered gun carriage). Amedee Bollee’s ‘L’Obesissant’ of 1872, now in the Conservatoire des Arts et Metiers in Paris, was working in 1923 and presumably could be got to working again, but the museum doesn’t normally run its exhibits. There’s the chassis of the 1830 Gurney Drag in the Glasgow Museum, and the 1854 Bordino steam coach in the Turn museum is apparently complete, but neither is likely to run again.”

Here is a video about the De Dion:

Image by RM Auctions, used under Fair Use: Reporting.


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