An 1884 French-built steam runabout, billed as the world's oldest running family car, has sold in Hershey for $4.62 million _ about double the amount auctioneers expected.
The de Deon Bouton et Trepardoux Dos-a-Dos Steam Runabout sold Friday at the annual RM Auctions Inc. sale to an undisclosed buyer, said Tyler Castle, the Blenheim, Ontario-based company's client services coordinator.
The auctioneer said there are older running vehicles, and some older cars that possibly could be made to run again, but "La Marquise," as it's known, is one of the world's most important collectible cars.
Pre-auction estimates had put the value at $2 million to $2.5 million.
Alain Squindo, a specialist in cars at RM Auctions, told The Patriot-News of Harrisburg that while La Marquise could be driven, it is not as simple as turning a key.
"This is pretty remarkable," he told the newspaper before the auction. "It predates the Benz three-wheeler, which everyone considers to be the start of the automobile."
It seats four, has a top speed of 38 mph and requires about 45 minutes to get pressure in the boilers sufficient to operate. A brass plate documents mandatory boiler inspections in 1889, 1894 and 1899.
The auctioneer's description said it was built after a French count was impressed by a model steam engine in a Paris toy store, and hired the manufacturers to create a full-model version attached to a carriage.
The auction winner is the fifth owner for the vehicle, which was owned by a single family for 81 years.