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World’s Oldest Car Sells for $4.3 Million

1884 De DionIt may not have the style of a Saleen S7 and it may not have the horsepower of a Bugatti Veyron. But the little 1884 De Dion Bouton et Trepardoux Dos-a-Dos Steam Runabout recently sold at auction in Hershey, Pa., does have one thing going for it: It’s believed to be the oldest operable automobile in the world. And that alone allowed it to sell for an astounding $4.6 million.

Built two years before Daimler and Benz built their first gasoline-powered car, the French De Dion is powered by an engine that uses coal, wood and bits of paper to produce enough steam power to boost the vehicle to a maximum 37 miles per hour. With a drive train that resembles that of a small locomotive, the automobile has the additional distinction of having won the first motorized vehicle race, which was run in Paris in 1887.

The car had last been sold in 2007 for about $3.5 million at a Pebble Beach, Calif., auction. This time around, many historic car experts expected the vehicle to actually sell for less, predicting a sale in the $2 million range. Many were surprised by the final $4.6 bid, which came from a collector who has not been identified.

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