Britain’s oldest functioning car on sale


The world’s oldest functioning British motor car goes under the hammer at Bonhams London to Brighton Sale at New Bond Street on 3 November.

The 1894 Santler 3½ Dogcart was built by Charles and Walter Santler, two brothers from Malvern, Worcestershire.

The pair initially made bicycles, steam engines and water wheels before moving on to mounting a small wheeled frame on a vertical boiler and creating a steam-powered vehicle in 1887.


Too much weight

The Santlers ran their creation on the road, but the car’s wooden chassis could only support two out of the three crew members legally required by the ‘Red Flag Act’ of 1865 and their project was abandoned.

In the early 1890s, the chassis was retrieved and fitted with a gas engine, but this too failed as the low power output and limited range proved impractical for travelling even short distances.

Finally, a petrol engine was installed before the car was laid up for several years.


Rediscovered and restored

The vehicle was re-discovered in the 1930s by a John Mills, who interviewed Charles Santler and wrote down the history of the car. Much of the documentation was lost during the Second World War, but the car itself survived undamaged.

In the 1950s, the vehicle was restored and was fitted with a Benz engine.

Surviving 19th-century British motor cars are extraordinarily rare and one that still runs is rarer still. The Santler comes with arranged entry to the London to Brighton Run, meaning that it could be purchased on Friday 3 and driven all the way to the coast by the weekend.

For more about Bonhams’ London to Brighton sale, click here.


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