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World's Oldest Running Car Sells for $4.62 Million

Photo Courtesy of RM Auctions

The world?s oldest running car, a water-powered, steam-driven 1884 De Dion Bouton Et Trepadroux Dos-a-Dos Steam Runabout, sold for $4.62 million last week at an auction held by RM Auctions in Hershey, Pennsylvania. The high-end, pre-auction estimate of the 127-year-old vehicle, dubbed La Marquise by Count de Dion, was $2.5 million. 

"We were honored to have been entrusted with the sale of this most important motor car from the renowned collection of the late Mr. John O'Quinn," said Rob Myers, chairman and founder RM Auctions, in a released statement. "The world's leading automotive collectors recognized the incredibly rare opportunity the sale represented, as was reflected in the spirited bidding and impressive result."

After being intrigued by a small, steam-powered engine the Count observed in a toy store in Paris built by Georges Bouton and Charles-Armand Trepadroux, he hired them to build a steam engine that would power a larger carriage. Prior to being commissioned for the endeavor, the craftsmen earned wages by building model boats, steam engines, and scientific instruments for wages.


Dion named the compact vehicle, which is nine-foot long and weighs 2,100 pounds, La Marquise after his mother. It has a maximum speed of 38 miles per hour and can travel a distance of 20 miles on a tank of water. The boiler in the water-powered motor takes 45 minutes to steam up.

The four-seat automobile is acknowledged to be the world?s first family car. It was an entry in the first motorcar race in history, held in France, on April 28, 1887. The steam-powered, four-wheel machine also was the only machine driven in that race, which ran from Paris to Versailles and back, with four tires.  

The unidentified new owner is only the fifth party to own La Marquise, as it previously was owned by one family for 81 years and had only four owners prior to this auction. For more information, visit

James Rothaar

As an independent contractor, James has written content for and other leading online luxury lifestyle magazines. Rothaar previously served as the senior-tenured staff writer for JustLuxe, having worked with the digital magazine since 2005. He resides in Jacksonville, Florida, and works as an independent marketing consultant and a freelance writer.

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