Good thing modern cars have simpler names: The De Dion Bouton et Trepardoux Dos-a-Dos Steam Runabout is the oldest running car in the world.

RM Auctions of the USA will auction off the world's oldest running car next month. Imaginatively named, the 1884 car is referred to as a De Dion Bouton et Trepardoux Dos-a-Dos Steam Runabout.

Luckily they also nicknamed it 'La Marquise' after the mother of the French entrepreneur that commissioned it, Count de Dion. The car was built by George Bouton and Charles-Armand Trepardoux.

It measures just 2.74 metres in length and features twin compound steam engines, which allows a travelling range of around 32km after a 45-minute coal or coke steam. Not quite a BMW M3 rival, the La Marquise will reach a top speed of 59km/h.

Other novelties include 'spade handle' steering, the level of power assistance depending on when last you saw the inside of a gym, and the car seats four people back-to-back. These seats are positioned atop a steel tank that holds 150 litres of water.

While it can't quite use the “one owner since new” tagline, the car has had just four owners over the years, the longest ownership period spanning 81 years.

It's had quite an accomplished life though, having been a participant in the first automobile race in 1887 and having been a double-award winner at the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance 110 years later.

Still a fully functioning car, the La Marquise recently successfully completed four London to Brighton runs in the UK where it was always the first car away as the oldest entry.

With an estimated fetching price of around R18-million, the La Marquise is one of the most important cars in the world, according to Rob Myers of RM Auctions. “With its impeccable provenance, fully-documented history and confirmation by leading historians as the world's oldest running motor car, its sale represents a once-in-a-lifetime ownership opportunity for savvy collectors, unlikely ever to be repeated,” Myers said.