World’s Oldest Running Car

…is a French 1884 De Dion et Trepardoux Dos-a-Dos steam runabout. It runs on steam, and it can be yours at auction next month for something north of $2 million.

1884 De Dion Bouton et Trepardoux Dos-a-Dos runabout. Courtesy RM Auctions

The car seats four people back-to-back (dos-a-dos in French). It has no steering wheel – just a tiller that looks like the handle of a shovel. There’s a water tank under the seats that propels the steam-powered engine, and it gets about half a mile per gallon.

It ran in the first automobile race in 1887, clocking a top speed of 37 mph, according to the auction house. It didn’t win.

“For 1884, for any car to be this complete is amazing,” said Alain Squindo, the editor in chief of catalogs at RM Auctions, which will sell the car on the afternoon of Oct. 7 in Hershey, Penn.

Squindo said that in the years since it was built, the car has had only four owners — one of them a family that kept it for 81 years — who made a point of keeping it in working order. Of late the car has belonged to a wealthy collector in Texas, who kept it under climate-controlled conditions.

“There are other cars — and I use the term loosely — that may be older, but this is the oldest that still works,” said Squindo.

It ’s easy to call this a one-of-a-kind car; it came well before Henry Ford’s adoption of the assembly line, which made automobiles popular and affordable.

You can win it if you have some spare cash, but you need a little just to look at the car. The auction catalog, which serves as an admission ticket for two, costs $100.