Oldest working car could fetch up to £1.5m at Hershey auction

Updated: 

The world's oldest working car could present collectors with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity when it goes under the hammer at auction.

One of the highlights at the RM Auctions Hershey sale in Pennsylvania is this 1884 De Dion Bouton et Trepardoux Dos-a-Dos Steam Runabout - or Steamer for short - expected to sell for between $2,000,000 and $2,500,000.


Commissioned by French entrepreneur, Count de Dion, and built by Georges Bouton and Charles-Armand Trepardoux, the 1884 De Dion steamer was nicknamed 'La Marquise' after the Count de Dion's mother and has had just four registered owners during its 127 years.

Measuring just nine feet in length, La Marquise features twin compound steam engines, 'spade handle' steering and seats four people 'dos-a-dos' (back-to-back). The seats are located on top of the steel tank which holds 40 gallons of water, good for about 20 miles; its boiler, fed by coal or coke, can be steamed in 45 minutes.

De Dion Bouton 'Steamer'

De Dion Bouton 'Steamer'

Count De Dion kept La Marquise until 1906 before selling it to a French army officer. He later described the vehicle as "the embryo of the first touring automobile. It had four seats and it was already a family car."

Family car it may have been but that didn't stop early racing ambitions and La Marquise is credited as being a participant in the first motor car race in 1887, driven by one of its makers, Georges Bouton. In fact, Bouton and the Steamer were the only participants - no one else turned up - but that didn't stop the pair putting on a show between Paris and Versailles.

Averaging 16mph over the 20-mile race distance Bouton managed to hit 37mph on the straights, according to an observer who timed him. The next year, De Dion in La Marquise beat Bouton on a three-wheeler, at an average of 18 mph.

Unsurprisingly, there is a lot of excitement surrounding the RM Auctions sale on 6-7 October and the inclusion of such an historic vehicle.

"La Marquise is arguably one of the most important motor cars in the world," says Rob Myers of RM Auctions.

"With its impeccable provenance, fully-documented history and confirmation by leading historians as the world's oldest running motor car, its sale represents a once-in-a-lifetime ownership opportunity for savvy collectors, unlikely ever to be repeated."

For more on the De Dion Bouton, click on the video below