We can probably debate what counts as the world’s first “real” automobile, since the “De Dion Bouton Et Trepardoux Dos-A-Dos Steam Runabout” is more of a train without tracks than an actual car. This over-named vehicle is up for auction, and ran not on gasoline that would come to define the car…but on steam power.
The Dos-A-Dos Steam Runabout was built in 1884 by the combined efforts of Comte de Dion, Georges Bouton, and Charles-Armand Trepardoux. Dion found Bouton and Trepardoux getting paid a pittance to build small children’s toys. He commissioned them to build a full-size engine upon which one could ride. Their first effort was prone to catching fire, but in 1884 they came up with this contraption, named “La Marquise.”
It is the first conventional family car, in that it can be driven by one, seat four, and it was only nine-feet long. The real breakthrough was the vertical steam boiler design built with concentric rings for strength, which drove two rear wheels in a fashion like your average steam locomotive. The Dos-A-Dos could reach speeds of 37 mph on flat straightaways, and had a range of at least 20 miles. But by 1893, gasoline was seen as the fuel of the future, and steam power was put on the back burner (heh). Still, I find it fun to imagine a steampunk world where cars got along not on dead dino juice, but steam engines. The world would likely be a much different place.
This piece of automotive history is expected to bring between $2 million and $2.5 million when it hits the auction block this weekend.