The Oldest British Car

1894 Santler 3½HP Dogcart

Offered by Bonhams | London, U.K. | November 3, 2017

Photo – Bonhams

And now on to the most interesting sale of the year, Bonhams’ London-to-Brighton sale. It never disappoints, this year especially. What you’re looking at here is believed to be the oldest surviving car built in Britain. The Santler brothers, Charles and Walter, were building bicycles in the 1880s in Worcestershire. They completed their first vehicle, a steam car, in 1889.

Unfortunately there were some weird laws on the books in 1889 and two-seat self-propelled cars were illegal. So they parked their experimental vehicle and only came back to it a few years later when they took the chassis (this one) and installed a two-cylinder gasoline engine. It was used briefly and wasn’t rescued until the 1930s. A fan of old cars bought it in the 1950s and restored it, using a period-correct 3.5 horsepower single-cylinder Benz engine, which it still carries today.

The Santlers built a few one-off cars up through 1922 which included a brief run of cars they actually offered for sale. This may be the only surviving example from Santler and with its chassis dating to 1889, it’s one of the oldest cars in the world. It has been prepped and is ready to take part in this year’s London-to-Brighton run. As a piece of history, it should bring between $260,000-$330,000. Click here for more info and here for more from this sale.

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