World’s Oldest Running Car up for Auction
Most readers will be unfamilar with the name, but De Dion Bouton, was the Toyota of its day. In the late 1800s De Dion Bouton was the largest manufacturer of motor vehciles in the world! The cars that got it all started was the 1884 De Dion Bouton Et Trepardoux Dos-A-Dos Steam Runabout.
At 127 years of age, the company auctioning the vehicle claims it to be the “oldest running motor car in the world.” It sold for $4,620,000. That was despite a pre-auction estimate of $2-million to $2.5-million. Ten years ago, that car would probably not have sold for anything more than $200,000 or so.
The car was built in Paris by Georges Bouton and Charles-Armand Trepardoux at the request of the young Count De Dion. With the four back-to-back or dos-a-dos seats and four wheels, the 1884 “La Marquise” as it was known, is considered by some to be the first family car. Compared to some more complex steam powered vehicles of the time, it can be driven by a single driver and has a range of about 20 miles on a single 40 gallon tank of water. The car can hit 38 miles per hour.
The car was entered by De Dion in the first car race, a round trip from Paris to Versaille and back. De Dion was the only driver to show up and managed to average 16 mph for the 20 mile course. The high performance was thanks in part to the relatively compact size at just nine feet long and around 2,100 pounds. The La Marquise has a “spade-handle” steering device that controls the front wheels. Power is delivered to the rear wheels, which like the front, are connected via a solid axle.
The compact, vertical steam engine is fed coal automatically through hoppers eliminating the need to constantly stoke the fire. Once sufficient steam pressure was achieved, the manual water pump was no longer needed and water was automatically supplied to the engine.
By the middle of the 1890s gasoline powered cars were gaining popularity and the era of steam was coming to an end. Though several car makers continued to use water and coal to power vehicles, De Dion sold La Marquise in 1906. Since then the car has only been sold two other times. It was partially restored to drivable condition by the last owner and competed regularly in historic races in Great Britain.