1899 Columbia Electric Laundaulet (from RM Auctions Sale Brochure)Enlarge Photo
If you had over half-a-million dollars to spend on an electric car, which car -- or cars -- would you buy?
For $550,000 -- that’s about the same price as the gas-guzzling rocket ship that is the 2011 Mercedes SLS AMG GT3 race car - you could buy 7 Tesla Model S Signature Series Sedans.
Or you could buy yourself and twelve lucky friends a fully tricked-out 2012 Nissan Leaf.
But for one lucky collector, $550,000 is the amount paid for an 1899 Columbia Electric Landaulet, the highest price ever paid at auction for a vintage electric car.
Smashing the estimate set by prestigious RM Auctions, this 112 year-old electric car is believed to be the sole surviving example of its type, with a three-position top allowing it to be used year-round.
It is even reputed a similar electric car from Columbia Electric performed throughout New York City’s famous blizzard of 1899.
There’s no satellite navigation, no radio and certainly no smartphone applications, but the Mark XXXV Columbia Electric Landaulet features not one but two direct-drive direct current motors from Edison, solid front and rear axles with full-elliptic leaf springs, and two-wheel mechanical brakes.
By 1902 the Columbia Automobile Company of Hartford, Connecticut offered a staggering 22 electric and 3 gasoline vehicles. By 1913, when the Columbia car ceased to be made, over 27,000 gasoline and electric cars had been built.
One of the oldest examples of an electric car we’ve ever seen, this example was rediscovered in 1976 on the former estate of a wealthy plantation owner in Charleston, South Carolina.
The Columbia Electric Laundaulet wasn’t the only prestigious car commanding impressive price-tags at the annual RM auction. Other cars sold on the first day of the auction included a 1938 Bugatti Type 57 Stelvio, commanding a $693,000 winning bid, a 1968 Ferrari 275 GTB/4 Berlinetta, selling for $1.485 million, and a Porsche 911 used by Hollywood legend Steve McQueen in the film Le Mans, which fetched an astonishing $1.375 million.