11-12 October 2012

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Lot 273

1899 De Dion-Bouton 2¼ HP Tricycle

  • Engine no. 6214

Sold for $71,500

2¼ hp, 270 cc air-cooled single-cylinder engine, two-speed gear transmission, and front-wheel brake and rear transmission brake, both from hand levers. Wheelbase: 40 in.

• High quality restoration; ex-William Lassiter

• London to Brighton eligible

• Genuine De Dion tricycle

Count Albert de Dion was born of French noble descent and engineering genes. The historian Griffith Borgeson described him as “clever, amusing, the life of any party, and universally popular…in spite of his ignobly eccentric part-time obsession with nasty steam engines.” The latter resulted in his partnership with Georges Trépardoux and Trépardoux’s brother-in-law Georges Bouton, building steam-powered carriages, and by 1885, they had built several successful machines.

In the early-1890s, however, the Count began to doubt the superiority of steam, and he started experimenting with internal combustion, designing two successful multi-cylinder units. In 1894, he designed a revolutionary single-cylinder engine of 137 cubic centimeters, boasting an electric ignition and a then-amazing speed of 3,000 rpm.

De Dion began building tricycles using his high-speed engines in 1895. They immediately became successful, so much so that others began buying his powerplants and putting them into their own or purchased chassis. Many were built on the “Perfecta” frames of Alexandre Darracq, and some tricycles were converted into quadricycles by replacing the fork with a forecar. In a number of these, a steering wheel replaced the handlebars.

This tricycle, by contrast, is all De Dion, from the engine, frame, and possibly the gearbox. It was restored by UK specialist J. Tennant-Eyles in the early-1990s, and then joined the Bill Lassiter Collection in the United States. Likely eligible for the London to Brighton Veteran Car Run in Britain, its two-speed gearing makes it tractable and maneuverable in traffic, which is necessary when cars reach city streets after exiting Hyde Park. The trikes have a dandy power-to-weight ratio, and one is often the first to finish the run. If there were such an award, this tricycle might win the medal for Most Punctual Arrival at Brighton.

Please contact our exclusive automotive transportation partner, Reliable Carriers, for a shipping quote or any other information on the transport of this vehicle.

Alexander Weaver


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Alexander Weaver joined RM Sotheby’s in 2011 as a Car Specialist after graduating from Furman University in South Carolina. Born... read more

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Augustin Sabatié-Garat joined RM Europe in 2012 as a Car Specialist after more than a decade in the collector car hobby. Gradua... read more

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Barney’s interest in classic cars began at an early age after being introduced to his father’s all-original 1965 Porsche 911. Barney l... read more

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David Swig joined RM Sotheby’s West Coast division as a Car Specialist in May 2015. David is a life-long automobile enthusi... read more

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Gord Duff began his journey with RM Sotheby’s in 1998. Since then, he has gained an intimate knowledge of a variety of marques a... read more

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As one of the three founding partners of RM Sotheby’s, Mike has a long-standing interest in the classic car industry. Graduating... read more

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With an extensive background in exotic sports car history and sales, a particular passion for American curves, and fluency in three la... read more

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Paul Darvill joined the RM Sotheby’s European team at the beginning of 2015. Paul holds a degree in French and Politics from the... read more

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Pete Fisher was first introduced to antique cars in high school, working for Classic Coachworks in his hometown of Blenheim, Ontario. ... read more

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Shelby Myers grew up with the classic car industry infused into every aspect of his life. He had the unique opportunity to watch the R... read more

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Tonnie Van der Velden joined RM Sotheby’s European division in September 2015 as a Car Specialist. A lifelong enthusiast, Tonnie... read more