The name alone might explain why they didn’t sell more. The world’s oldest running automobile carries a name that would almost wrap around its tiny body. But expect that someone will be writing a check with nearly as long a price tag when an 1884 De Dion Bouton et Trepardoux Dos-a-Dos Steam Runabout goes on the RM Auction block next month in Hershey, Pennsylvania.
And it will get there under its own power. A total of just 20 of the tricycle-style De Dions were produced in 1884, of which only six are known to survive. And the one being auctioned off is the only copy that can still run under its own power.
At 127 years of age, the Runabout raises a question about who actually created the modern automobile. Mercedes-Benz, which is generally given credit, is just celebrating its 125th anniversary. But the German marque’s first offering introduced the idea of using petroleum to power an internal combustion engine. The De Dion was a steam-powered cruiser.