World's Oldest Operating Motor Vehicle to be Auctioned

Classic Cars / 46 Comments

At 127 years old, the French-built De Dion was unlike anything else ever seen in France or anywhere else in the world.

It's not exactly a car. Nor is it a simple carriage. What it is, in fact, is the world's oldest operating motorized vehicle. And for anyone who is a serious collector and has the financial means, this is something truly special that is quite unlike anything else still in operating existence. Set to go up for auction next month at the Vintage Motor Cars of Hershey sale hosted by RM Auctions, the French-built De Dion is in amazing condition considering it is 127 years old. And yes, it still runs.

The 1884 De Dion Bouton Et Trepardoux Dos-A-Dos runabout, also simply called the "La Marquise" after the Count de Dion's mother, is actually quite compact at nine feet long. It is steered by its front wheels which drive the rear wheels through connecting rods. Basically, its setup is like that of an old locomotive that was produced during that era. Total weight is just 2,100 pounds and seated up to four people. It's powered by twin compound steam engines capable of propelling it to 38mph and giving it a range of up to 20 miles on a tank of water.

According to the world's first automobile magazine, La France Automobile, only about 30 De Dion steamers were made: supposedly 20 tricycles, four or five quadricycles, and a few larger carts and carriages. And now only two quadricycles remains and six tricycles are known, thus making the De Dion extremely valuable. RM is estimating that it will sell for between $2 million - $2.5 million. Amazingly, the vehicle has had only four owners so far during its lifetime, with one family having ownership for 81 years. The fifth owner will be decided upon this October 7th.

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