PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. Billed as the "Sale of the Century," the upcoming Pebble Beach auction of what is possibly the world's oldest running car, an 1884 four-wheeled De Dion-Bouton et Trepardoux, is already sparking worldwide interest.
Photography courtesy of Simon Clay on behalf of Gooding & Company
The car was built in France in 1884, about a year before Gottlieb Daimler and Karl Benz of Germany built their first experimental gasoline-powered cars and twelve years before Henry Ford built his first car.
Originally built and owned by French nobleman and pioneer automaker, Count De Dion, the 1884 quadricycle has the distinction of being the oldest authenticated running car and is in restored, road-ready condition. Since its invention 123 years ago, the vehicle has had only three owners: Count DeDion himself from 1884 to circa 1906, the Doriol family of Paris from then until 1987, and the current owner from 1987 to the present.
Boasting a top speed of 38 miles per hour, the De Dion Bouton's twin tandem compound steam engines use coal and water for fuel and take about a half-hour to work up enough steam to drive.
On April 28, 1887 it won the world's first auto race, from Paris to Neuilly and back, covering a distance of 19 miles while averaging 26 miles per hour. In the following year it won the world's second auto race against Georges Bouton's steam tricycle, making it also the world's first racing car. A photograph from that race survives today.
"That's as fast as you want to go," David Gooding, founder of the auction company told CNN. "It feels like going 80 or 90 mph in a newer automobile. And, by newer, I mean 1910."
According to the auction company, the car runs on thin tires of solid rubber wrapped around metal wheels.
Gooding estimates the car's value at between $1.5 million and $2 million. It will be auctioned on Aug. 19 in Pebble Beach, Calif.