back to article Ancient auto: still running, up for sale

It’s even won a race, although it was reputedly the only contestant: a motor vehicle built in 1884 and thought to be the oldest still operating is up for sale. If you’ve got a couple of million and are free for a trip to Hershey, Pennsylvania, you could be the proud owner of a steamer built for one Comte De Dion, with only …


This topic is closed for new posts.
  1. jake Silver badge

    As an old car restoration dude ...

    ... I'd love to get my hands on something like this.

    Sadly, my oldest powered vehicles are "the twins" ... a '31 Model A and a '32 Model B ... Oldest vehicles are early 1850s Conestoga Wagon & similar era Buckboard[1]. The "Cinderella Coach" currently in my restoration shop was supposedly from the early 1700s, but I think I got taken, all signs are pointing at it being a Hollywood prop from the 1930s. I'm restoring her anyway :-)

    [1] If you're ever in Sonoma, CA and see a Percheron pulling a Buckboard, put up the universal "can I have a lift" sign, and I'll be happy to give you a guided tour of the town where California began.

    1. Jolyon

      Another Reg reader who could make a very interesting contribution to the site (or is there an existing blog / site for these projects?)

      1. jake Silver badge


        Not certain where you are going with your comment.

        Me, I offer input from my perspective on articles that aren't necessarily always IT related. I do it in the hopes of making people think "outside the box". Am I tilting at windmills? Yes.

        On the other hand, is my contribution always entirely on-topic? No, of course not. But topic drift (thread drift) have long been one of the engines that drive online community (see: alt.folklore.computers, alt.folklore.urban, alt.callahans, and the Scary Devil Monastery, for a fairly good & diverse selection of this).

        On the gripping hand, if your question was serious, yes there are online fora for particular marques of old cars (and carriages). Metacrawl for them, they aren't hard to find.

        Clenched between my toes, if you are suggesting I contribute more formerly to ElReg, I seriously doubt I'd fit in with ElReg's current staff. I'm fine with that, and I suspect (most of) ElReg's staff are fine with that, too ;-)

    2. Graham Marsden

      1850s Conestoga Wagon & similar era Buckboard

      "No, Ma'am, I said *buck* board, but as the saying has it: 'a ride for a ride'..."

  2. Big-nosed Pengie

    I'm not interested

    Unless it comes with Bluetooth and GPS.

  3. Jacob Lipman

    Water vs. petrol?

    It's not burning or otherwise using the water as a direct energy source. It's burning something else (presumably some type of oil, doubtful it's a wood burner looking at it) to heat the water, which becomes steam that drives a piston or pistons, and the steam is vented - hence the water usage.

    That's a hell of a piece of history. I would love to see it operating. Who wants to bet that Jay Leno bids on it?

    1. amanfromearth

      It's Coal fired

      So there

      1. Captain Scarlet Silver badge


        So the mpg would be replaced by mpk (miles per kilo of coal) or something.

        Wonder if it can be classed as a hybrid as the coal is used to generated energy in water which is then stored and released.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Up

      "Who wants to bet that Jay Leno bids on it?"

      My EXACT thought.

      Sure hope he does, that way, it won't be "buried" in some museum, never to run again.

      1. Darryl

        I'll bet he already has put in his bid.

        Guy's already got 15 steam cars

        1. sisk Silver badge

          I guarentee Jay's bid on it already, unless he hasn't yet heard it's for sell. The oldest still-running car in the world would be the perfect addition to his collection.

  4. Voland's right hand Silver badge


    It was a prototype allright. De Dion went on to build steam trucks and steam buses.

    By the way, it was taxation which killed it, not technical superiority of the Allmighty Petrol. Less than a hundred miles on a tank of water? So what, it is not like you cannot fill it nearly everywhere. It was still going faster, carrying bigger loads and cost less to run than the average petrol lorry all the way up to WW2.

  5. That Awful Puppy

    I can't imagine

    Going up the Hershey highway in this.

    (See icon)

    1. Anomalous Cowturd

      @ That Awful Puppy

      Get in your bed!

      See icon. Pinot Grigio, not coffee. ;)

    2. Dave 15 Silver badge

      Steam isn't dead yet

      Just look at the advantages over these pesky batteries.

      You could setup steam cars/lorries/busses like the old 'fireless' locos which were used in places like munitions factories. These had a big tank which was filled with steam (and hot water) that powered the loco all day. You could do this with a car - using the current petrol stations to 'refuel'. The refuel would take seconds (rather like filling your petrol tank today) and could give you a range of 200-300 miles per 'tank full'. The steam could be heated using electricity/coal or whatever took your fancy as the most 'environmental' solution at the time.

      No heavy metals needed, no rare earth materials from China, no 8 hours to charge your battery, no 50 mile range as long as you don't exceed the speed of a snail... none of the excessive costs either - steam technology is simple enough to make.

      Its a step up from the compressed air cars ( that exist, but actually only because steam holds more energy than squashed air (for a given pressure anyway).

  6. Herby Silver badge

    My grandparents toured around Europe in 1901 in a Dion Bouton one cylinder vehicle. There is one of similar vintage at the French auto club in paris (behind glass). They were adventurous souls, as once they were given mineral oil instead of motor oil. This necessitated an overnight tearing down of the one cylinder engine, by lantern light in a barn. A manual wasn't included (I guess open source wasn't done even then).

    Some things never change!

  7. TeeCee Gold badge

    Fuel consumption.

    Water, yes. But it burns *something* to heat the water??

    Early steam vehicles tended to use, er, petrol for fuel as it was effectively free, being a waste product produced from the process of refining crude oil to make lubricants, lamp oil, etc.

    A side effect of having a petrol feed into a naked flame was a worrying tendancy to produce rather more fire than was necessary to run the vehicle.

    Dunno about this one, it might even use coal.

    Later vehicles had what looked like a conventional radiator. This was a condenser which served two purposes. Firstly it allowed reuse of water, increasing range. Secondly it saved fuel as the condensed steam going back to the boiler was already quite hot.

  8. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

    But what about the MOT

    still valid

    1. jake Silver badge

      @Michael H.F. Wilkinson

      MOT isn't really required for this kind of thing.

      In the first place, it's road-going capability is Grandfathered, and secondly, it is probably never actually driven in real traffic.

      Antiques are funny that way ... and part of the reason we like 'em ;-)

      1. Vic


        > MOT isn't really required for this kind of thing.

        It is in the UK (do they have the MOT in Merkania?). It's of testable age (>3 years).

        However, the criteria for passing are somewhat relaxed.

        I spent a while a Goodwood last year talking to the bloke[1] who owns the Darracq 200. His MOT tale is something of a giggle.


        [1] The guy is a nutter. I watched him go round Molecombe with the power decidedly *on*. That Darracq has no diff...

        1. laird cummings

          Yes, we have a MOT - Or equivalent. It's at the State level, but everything that runs on the open road must meet appropriate safety standards, even in places like Alaska or Montana.

          You wouldn't find this on the open roads, though - *maybe* in a parade, but a parade runs on public roads that have been temporarily restricted from general use. Otherwise, you'd only see it on controlled courses.

        2. Daniel 4


          "(do they have the MOT in Merkania?)"

          Yes, though being the U.S. we have to run everything through the States but complicated by a fine layer of federal oversight/potstiring. That said, there are almost always special rules for anything like this - antiques, demo runs (less than 50 vehicles in the production run), etc. - this vehicle actually meets multiple "exemption" criteria. That can keep inspection requirements to a bare minimum in most jurisdictions Stateside.


          1. jake Silver badge


            Since I got them[1], I have just payed the license fee to the DMV for my '31 & '32 ... No official has ever even looked at 'em; all they care about is that they are insured for over-the-road use. I have both the original "as issued" license plates, and "State Historic" license plates.

            [1] I'm the only gear-head nephew of a deceased childless Uncle. His toy-collection was added to my toy collection. The only stipulation in the Will was that his Father's (my Grandfather's) bought-new in the thirty's Fords would remain as stock as possible. Today, they look like they just rolled off the showroom floor ... although I will admit that I used modern metallurgical knowledge in the motors & drivetrains[2]. I intend to pass them on to my Grand Daughter, eventually, if she shows any interest in such things (she's barely a year old).

            [2] Yes, we drive them. I don't believe in garage ornaments. The wife & I took them up to Fort Bragg (California version) a few weeks ago ... About twelve hours on the road, six each way, including a picnic lunch on the Russian River just outside Calpella on 101, and another picnic along the Navarro River, just West of the town of the same name on the way back three days later. North-bound I drove the Model A, she drove the Model B; we swapped for the trip home.

    2. David Pollard

      Never mind the MOT ...

      ... is it exempt fom the congestion charge?

  9. arrbee

    I used to have a Marina that got through water like that.

  10. Steve the Cynic Silver badge

    "Water is cheaper than petrol"

    Well, that depends. In around 2001, I stopped at a petrol station and bought some petrol for the car and a bottle of water for me. At the time, petrol was in the vicinity of £1 per litre, while the bottle of water was 89p for 500ml, or almost £1.80 a litre...

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    One question

    Can it run Windows without crashing?

  12. joshimitsu

    it'll probably crash when you try to download Battlefield 3 off it.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      It's French, it'll probably just surrender.

  13. Blitheringeejit

    @David Pollard

    As it's coal-fired, presumably its CO2 emissions are somewhat in excess of those required for exemption.

    More significantly, does the Clean Air Act (note for the under-50s - this was a law which banned coal-fired houses in most urban areas) also apply to vehicles?

    Flame icon, obviously....

  14. Steve X


    What chance a prototype Tesla or Volt from today surviving until 2138!

  15. Geoff Thompson
    Thumb Up


    Never seen one running that old, but lots of Stanley steam cars still running in the UK. I love seeing them. IT angle? They are on Google ;-)

    1. jake Silver badge

      @Geoff Thompson

      IT angle? They can transport human knowledge from point A to point B!

      It's bleedin' obvious! Furrfu!

  16. sisk Silver badge

    Very nice car.

    Personally I'm holding out for one of the few still-running Doble Series Es to pop up for sale. Built in the early 20s and the things outpreform a lot of the cars on the road today. 0-75 in 10 seconds, top speed of 90mph, 30mpg (burning kerosene)...As if I could actually afford to buy one should it go up for auction.

This topic is closed for new posts.

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2019