In 2011, the 1884 De Dion Bouton Et Trapardoux Dos-A-Dos sold for $4.62-million. That’s 127 years after they manufactured the car, which begs the questions… why didn’t we make more of them?
The Dos-A-Dos in question has been meticulously cared for. For most of it’s time on this planet it belonged to one family.
Very few steam cars still run, especially from before the turn of the century. The irony is that car marks both the height and decline of the external combustion engine. By the 1900’s the writing was on the wall for steam; its days were numbered.
The story of the Dos-A-Dos is not so unique, as many steam manufacturers at the time suffered the same fate. Before they could take flight, innovation and industry shattered their dreams.
Still, this story has a much longer ending. in fact, we have yet to write it. The story begins with a pair of engineers.
Must read: The Dawn Of The External Combustion Engine
Bouton and Trapardoux
This pair of industrialists were in business together from 1883 to 1894, during the decline of the steam engine, a time that would give way to the rise of the internal combustion engine.
It was their eventual and divided opinion on the matter that separated the two, but prior to ’94, they made history. They just didn’t know it yet.
Bouton and Traperdoux were engineers, making toys when they started created De Dion Bouton Et Trapardoux. They began by making boat engines but switched to cars.
Unfortunately for them, it was not clear at the time which way the world would go. Like many people in the steam business, they thought they were just around the corner from a world of steam automobiles.
Bouton saw it, but Trapardoux wanted to stick with steam. By 1894 the pair split. Trapardoux went on to make more steam engines, while Bouton moved onto to the internal combustion engine.
Their legacy would be one of 20 three-wheeled cars, called the Dos-A-Dos.
1887 AD. The boys once entered their prize car in a race that stretched from London to Brighton, the world’s first race of its kind; an auto race.
It was 20 grueling miles of road, where only one car could win. Thankfully for the Dos-A-Dos, 20 miles was exactly how far it could travel on one tank of water.
Had the competition showed to the starting line, there may have been tension in the air. Nobody else showed. It was only the Dos-A-Dos, but Bouton and Trapardoux raced their car nonetheless.
The steamer set a record that day as the fastest car to date, at 37 miles per hour. Little did the boys know this wouldn’t be the last time the car would make history.
To be fair, the car that competed in the ’87 race may not be the exact same car which still runs today. Bouton and Trapardoux manufactured 20 of these babies.
Only six of them remain, but of those six, only one still runs. In 2011 it went to auction after 81 years in the same family. The buyer paid over twice what auctioneer’s expected, the better part of $5-million (4.62).
I was unable to find the price of this specific car at the time of purchase, but steam engines sold for around $1,800-5K (about 50-140,000 in today’s economy).
If the Dos-A-Dos was the high end at $5,000, the return was 924% of purchase price. No car I’ve owned has crossed the 1% profit mark.
Two of the cars I’ve owned left on flatbeds towed to the recycling plant. I was lucky not to pay for the disposal. If I could’ve just held onto them a few years longer, maybe I could have sold them for millions.
Doubtful, but the unanswerable question about the Dos-A-Dos is, how much longer can it last? With proper care and many customized parts, it seems it could run as long as someone is willing to keep it up.
What will it go for in 2111 AD?