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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 four owners, probably more years than miles, and able to cover 20 miles on a single tank of water. Since the tank held 40 gallons, that’s about half a mile per gallon – but water is, after all, cheaper than petroleum.

It only takes 45 minutes to get enough steam happening to actually move, but according to the RM Auctions promo, it was also the prototype for later vehicles.

Source: RM Auctions

De Dion only made around 30 steam vehicles, and while eight others are still known to exist, the auction item is the only one still operable.

The reason it’s running, according to the auction catalogue, is a British enthusiast called Tim Moore, who set about a restoration project completed in 1993, when he replaced brass fittings melted down during World War I, and gave the machine the correct spoked wheels with hard-rubber tyres.

And the race? One of the builders, Georges Bouton, entered the De Dion in what RM Auctions says was the first automobile race; and this vehicle was the only one to show up. ®

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