Rare 1894 motorcar on auction believed to be England’s oldest surviving car

  • Image Credit: Bonhams
British auction house Bonhams is set to sell what's believed to be the oldest surviving British motorcar: an 1894 Santler Dogcart with a varnished wooden body, angle-iron platform with full-elliptic front and rear suspension, and a belt-based transmission turning bicycle tires. The car, which also features foot- and hand-operated brakes, is expected to fetch up to £250,000, or $330,000.

The Santler was built between 1889 and 1922 in Malvern Link, Worcestershire, England by brothers Charles and Walter Santler, who inherited their father's engineering company and initially focused on making bicycles. The earliest version of the Santler was a roughly 4-foot wide two-seater powered by a vertical steam boiler; it was abandoned due to an 1865 British law that required a minimum of three crew members for any mechanical vehicle. A successive version ran on compressed coal gas, which failed due to low power output and limited range.

The Santler on auction was reportedly re-discovered in the 1930s and survived World War II undamaged (the same cannot be said for much of the paperwork about the car, unfortunately). It was painstakingly restored during the 1950s and fitted with a single-cylinder, water-cooled 3.5-horsepower Benz engine. Its original manufacturing date has been verified by the Veteran Car Club, though the registration mark was originally issued to a 1901 Santler car.

Christie's sold the same car in 2001 for £146,750. Bidding takes place Nov. 3 in London. It comes with pre-arranged entry to the London-Brighton Run of veteran cars, which starts the same day.

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