1899 Vintage Electric Car Sells For Record-Breaking $550,000 In Auction

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1899 Columbia Electric Laundaulet (from RM Auctions Sale Brochure)

1899 Columbia Electric Laundaulet (from RM Auctions Sale Brochure)

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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

[RMauctions via MotorAuthority]


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Comments (6)
  1. They can build an electric car 113 years ago that can be used year round and even in New York's worst winter ever, but we can't build an electric car today that can't be used anywhere except in a perfect climate...boy! have we regressed.

    Why don't the automakers just replicate that great looking Columbia Electric Laundaulet and put about ten million of them on the road? I would buy one if it didn't cost $550,000 dollars or made by GM.

  2. Yay - Your wish is granted!!! You can now choose one of the millions of golf carts that are out there. Their batteries last longer, they're more comfortable, they're much cheaper and they won't reach highway speeds just like the Laundaulet. It's a copy but even better, so enjoy!

  3. I love the old electrics, the different early designs are fun to look at. I've found a fun way to look at EV designs through history, go on eBay and simply type electric car then sort your search to view collectibles. You'll see a vast amount of ads, pictures, and brochures for electric cars few people have ever heard of. And even a few surprises from known manufacturers like GM.

  4. You cannot buy the Tesla sedan yet. Even if you had half a million dollars to spend, you still cannot buy one...

  5. We are all well aware of that, though Tesla has announced the base price so based on that you could buy a small fleet of Model Ss next summer for the price of this Columbia.

  6. Coda also announced their pricing a long time ago, so I guess we could buy the whole fleet of Codas for half a million... What else could we buy? How about a boat load of hot dogs?

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