British pioneer up for grabs at London to Brighton sale

| 23 Oct 2017

The world’s oldest working British motor car is set to go under the hammer at the Bonhams London to Brighton Veteran Car Run auction, which takes place on 3 November on New Bond Street, London.

At 123 years old, the remarkable 1894 Santler 3 ½ Dogcart is the oldest British car still in full working condition anywhere in the world. The early pioneer was built in Malvern by Charles and Walter Santler, brothers who built bicycles, steam engines and water wheels before turning their know-how to the production of a steam powered vehicle in 1887. Though the automobile was run on the road, its wooden chassis could only carry two of the three people required by the ‘Red Flag Act’ of 1865, forcing them to abandon their project.

The chassis had been revived by the early 1890s thanks to the addition of a gas engine, but again the low power and limited range prevented the vehicle from becoming a success. A petrol engine was then installed before the car was laid up for several years.

Fortunately, the car was re-discovered in the 1930s by John Mills, who interviewed Charles Santler and took note of the vehicle’s history. Much of the documentation was lost during the war, but the car survived undamaged. A painstaking restoration took place in the 1950s, during which the vehicle was fitted with a 3 ½ Benz engine.

Interestingly, the car will be sold with pre-arranged entry into this year’s event, meaning its new owner could buy the Santler on the Friday and drive it to the coast at the weekend.