I like old cars so this story caught my eye. The oldest running car on earth will be auctioned soon. It was one of the earliest steamers, made in France. People forget the leading role France played in the race to invent everything from movies to aeroplanes. This antique car is interesting to me because is is mostly made from horse carriage parts and distillery equipment. Also, I look at other cars made by this French company, De Dion-Bouton et Trepardoux. Which leads me to other off-hand topics about comic books and some people I have known.
A steam-powered car, billed as the oldest car in the world that still runs, will be sold in a Pebble Beach, Calif., auction in August.
The car was built in France in 1884, about a year before Gottlieb Daimler and Karl Benz of Germany built their first experimental gasoline-powered cars (The two were working independently of one another.) Henry Ford, the man many Americans mistakenly believe invented the automobile, built his first car 12 years after this one.
The four-wheeled De Dion-Bouton et Trepardoux, nicknamed "La Marquise," was originally buit for the French Count De Dion, one of the founders of the company. The car has had only two other owners since, according to auction house Gooding & Company, which is handling the sale.
In an 1887 demonstration drive, the car covered a 19 mile course at an average speed of 26 miles per hour. The following year, it won the world's first car race, according to Gooding, beating a three-wheeled steam-powered De Dion-Bouton.
I have lots of very old fashioned type stuff. Including a horse buggy. The earliest cars used many horse carriage parts, these being manufactured and available. This early specimen is very much a cross between a horse buggy, a tricycle and a still for making hard liquor. What a wonderful machine! If you click on the story, you can see the photo. I tried to draw off of it but it was hard telling things apart from the fuzzy photo. I am assuming it is like all steam engines with a release valve and lots of shut off valves, etc. The steering is that long rod with a cross piece at the top with two knobs. This is a common early steering device. You had to have your hand on it at all times while the free hand would manipulate all the brakes and valves.
The stirrups on the end of two poles there are the brakes and probably the gear shift. These funny looking things were used on the earliest tricycles...bicycles barely invented yet! the rider would yank on these to stop. Early cars were quite a challenge. The cycle tires were stressed by the weight of the vehicle and dealing with the energy of the engine took quite a bit of skill. And imagine being a horse and meeting a steamer huffing and puffing on a road!
Horses don't like cars. My oxen didn't like cars and if they wandered off into the village, they would always stand in the street and block traffic deliberately. Sparky hates cars and gets very huffy if one tries to pass him on the road. But a steamer!
It is more like a dragon than any car we know of today! Hissing and spitting, clanking along, I would suppose more than one horse flew off in a panic. Indeed, in England, a driver had to have his servant walk ahead with a flag to warn carriages and riders!
It would certainly be fun to see this machine in action.
De Dion-Bouton was a French automobile manufacturer operating from 1883 to 1932. The company was founded by Comte Albert de Dion (1856-1946), Georges Bouton (1847-1938) and his brother in law Charles Trépardoux. Bouton and Trépardoux had been making small steam engines and toys when they met de Dion who offered to go into partnership with them forming De Dion, Bouton et Trépardoux in Paris in 1883.
The Great Depression killed off the company. Along with a host of other early automotive makers. We don't see Cords driving around, do we? Unless it is a museum piece. I've known more than one museum piece found in barns after sitting idle for 90 years or so. Once, I had to go to the Rolls Royce headquarters in the US which is in Manhattan.
While I was discussing something with the man in charge of sales (no, I wasn't buying anything, this had to do with artwork and dance) when my daughter pointed to the oldest car on display, a pretty number from around 1924, and said, 'Mommy, buy that car!' It was well over a million dollars.
I would be too nervous to go around in something that expensive, myself, not in Manhattan. The handles, etc, were solid silver, for example.
ForTS de leur supériorité, DE DION-BOUTON et TREPARDOUX attendaient vainement depuis des années l'occasion de consacrer officiellement la puissante chaudière à vapeur mise au point par TREPARDOUX. Comme le temps passait, la, Maison D.B.T. (initiales des trois collaborateurs) décida d'améliorer encore le célèbre tricycle de 1883. Sorti en 1887, un nouveau véhicule se montra le digne successeur du précédent.
Plus léger, il roulait plus vite. La chaudière était de plus petite taille, dégageant parfaitement la visibilité vers l'avant et procurant davantage de C.V. La roue arrière (surmontée du réservoir d'eau) était motrice tandis que les roues avant étaient directrices. Sur ces entrefaites, un des membres influents de la " Société Vélocipédique Métropolitaine ", Paul Faussier, organisa la première course de " voitures sans chevaux " pour le 28 avril 1887.
Among other things, this notes, the car didn't protect you against rain. Or wind. Or slingshots from children hiding behind hedges. Or dog bites. This is probably why the cartoonist drew in the Tintin dog, Snowy. The model shown here was the earliest machine. It sat only one person and the engine was much smaller and probably couldn't go all too far, either. Though I bet it turned heads and created great wonder wherever it rolled!
When I was an obnoxious teenager, I had amusing friends and one of them, Hal Robins, introduced me to all sorts of great comix books and one of them was the Tintin series. And the Asterix stories. I met him when he and John Damon put an ad in the newspaper advertising the beginning of a poetry/fantasy club. My friend, Anne and I decided to answer the ad and we ended up very good friends for a number of years until we got scattered to the four winds.
Here is some of his work that is online.
It's Wednesday night, which means it's time for the "Ask Dr. Hal Show" at the Odeon, a dive bar in the Mission with walls that are painted black. The place is packed with people mostly in their late 20s and 30s; three men sit onstage, a beer pitcher full of questions at the ready.
The show's concept is simple: Write down a question, slip a tip in the envelope, and the resident sage of the Odeon, Dr. Hal Robins, will answer. The 52-year-old Robins looks a bit like Benjamin Franklin: He's rotund; he dresses in a frock coat, brocade vest, bow tie, and watch chain; and a few long, stringy strands of gray hair fall from his otherwise bald pate. But from the brain of this unlikely headliner come astonishing answers. No question is too big or small, ridiculous or academic, personal or crude for his wit and intellect to tackle.
He has spent his life entertaining people. I spent mine irritating people. Both of us are comix book characters or in other things due to our rambling lives. This car business reminds me of Hal because he adored Victorian things and probably still does. We would dress up, all of us in this fashion and run around the city at night and get people to react. Sometimes, they would attack us and this was my fun part: fighting them off while dressed to the nines. Umbrellas are great weapons. He was Dr. Hal and I was Auntie Hattie. My ancient hat took quite a battering during those years.
In 1966, the Dean of Girls used to stand at the front enterance to the school with a yardstick to measure the length of dresses and then she would punish anyone whose skirt was too short. So one day, she stopped me because I was decked out in my full Victorian gear. 'You can't wear that in school,' she scolded me. I paused and then began to fan myself and put my hand to my forehead. 'Oh, my, I'm going to faint! Not only are you showing your ankles, you are revealing your KNEES!' Needless to say, I was not punished.
So it is really nice to see from afar, old friends are still chugging along like these ancient steamers, doing their thing.