World's Oldest Running Car Expected To Sell For $2 Million
By James Grahame
One of the world's first horseless carriages will be auctioned next week by RM Auctions in Hershey, Pennsylvania. The 1884 De Dion Bouton Et Trepardoux Dos-a-Dos Steam Runabout (dubbed La Marquise, after the owner's mother) is expected to sell for between $2 and $2.5 million.
While there are older self-propelled vehicles sitting in museums around the world, the 9 foot long Runabout quadricycle is certified as the oldest running car in existence. Its boiler required only 45 minutes to reach a head of steam, and the vehicle can be safely operated by a single person. The 2,100 lb contraption seats four and features front wheel steering.
Powered by twin compound steam engines, it is capable of a bone-jarring 40 mph on the straights, and subsequent versions of the Runabout sold for around $850 in 1887.
RM Auctions reports, "Comte de Dion’s little quadricycle can claim to be the first family car, despite its arcane power source. What makes it different from road-going locomotives dating back to Cugnot’s 1770 tractor is its sophisticated boiler, which can be steamed in 45 minutes. It is also compact at only nine feet long and relatively light at 2,100 pounds. But, it has four wheels, seats four, and can be driven by one person – like a modern car.
Writer David Burgess-Wise examined 'La Marquise' closely for Automobile Quarterly in 1995. He pointed out that it is both de Dion’s prototype quadricycle and the oldest running real car in private hands, so its credentials are unmatched."
If you get your hands on this one-of-a-kind classic, please don't break it -- I'm sure a formerly-running steam runabout is significantly less valuable.
[Update: it sold for $4.6 million. That's one heck of an expensive steam machine. - JG]