It’s slow, rough and belches smokes, but that wasn’t enough to keep an unidentified bidder from spending $4.6 million to acquire an 1884 De Dion Bouton et Trepardoux Dos-a-Dos Steam Runabout at the RM Auction in Hershey, Pennsylvania.
More commonly known as “La Marquise,” for Count De Dion’s mother, the coal-fired three-wheeler is the oldest surviving automobile in the world. The $4.2 million winning bid was more than double the original, $2 million estimate. The auction house added another $420,000 in commission.
The buyer will be only the fifth since La Marquise was built – one of 20 to be assembled by the Count, among the earliest proponents of the automobile. In fact, the De Dion Runabouts were produced two years before Carl Benz rolled out his first vehicle, which the German maker Daimler AG bills as the first true automobile. That is a matter of semantics, as the De Dion design ran on steam power rather than using an internal combustion engine, as the Benz model did.