HomeThe Market1898 Riker, ‘most important electric car ever built,’ heading to auction

1898 Riker, ‘most important electric car ever built,’ heading to auction


Calling it “the most important electric car ever built,” Worldwide Auctioneers has announced that the 1898 Riker Electric, owned and raced by company founder Andrew Riker, will headline the Pacific Grove Auction scheduled for August 15 during Monterey Car Week 2019.

“This is the most important electric car ever built and its consequence today cannot be overstated,” Rod Egan, Worldwide principal and auctioneer, said in announcing the consignment.

“The enduring debate over alternative fuels and the ongoing development of renewable energy and ‘green’ automobiles is obviously a hotter and more critical topic than ever in 2019, making it even more remarkable that this historic electric motorcar was conceived well over a century ago by a true pioneer of green energy, a veritable Elon Musk of his day. 

“There are very few cars of this historic significance in existence and certainly hardly any that are available for sale. Our sincere wish is that it will find itself in a place where it will be seen and enjoyed and lauded a remarkable pioneering achievement that it is, one of the earliest American electric cars in existence and certainly the earliest one that raced.”

Andrew Riker used an electric motor to power a tricycle in 1887 and a year later founded the Riker Electric Motor Co. in Brooklyn, New York. He built his first car in 1894 by starting with two bicycles and an electric motor and battery. 

Within two years, he had progressed to produce an electric car that beat a petrol-powered car in the Narragansett Races. In 1900, he drove one of his electric cars a mile in 63 seconds, an American record. 

He also designed a petrol-powered motorcar, producing 8- and 16-horsepower versions. He became chief engineer at Locomobile and was the first president of the Society of Automotive Engineers.

His 1889 Riker Electric was donated to the Henry Ford Museum in 1929 but was returned to the Riker family in 1985, and it has not previously been offered for sale.

“The 1898 Riker Electric has exceptional provenance and fascinating race history,” Worldwide Auctioneers said. 

“It retains its original leather license plate with Riker’s initials, the very first car registered in the state of New York and possibly the very first in the US. 

“Andrew Riker drove the car to victory at the Mechanics Fair at Charles River Park in Massachusetts in 1898 and again in 1900 at a race at the 1900 Paris Exposition. He also won first place at the very first 50-mile road race in America, on Long Island, New York. 

“In its heyday, the Riker could reportedly reach 40 mph and travel 50 miles on a charge. It is offered for sale in amazing original, unrestored condition, making it a perfect preservation-class car and eligible for the most celebrated events like the London to Brighton Veteran Car Run.”

The Pacific Grove Auction is scheduled for August 15 on the Pacific Grove Golf Links. 

Larry Edsall
Larry Edsall
A former daily newspaper sports editor, Larry Edsall spent a dozen years as an editor at AutoWeek magazine before making the transition to writing for the web and becoming the author of more than 15 automotive books. In addition to being founding editor at ClassicCars.com, Larry has written for The New York Times and The Detroit News and was an adjunct honors professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.


  1. Referring to…ANY…electric car…as ‘historically important’…is analogous to naming an ‘extension cord’ a profound invention.
    I concede that electric cars will eventually win the market; however, it will take another forty years…and I am glad about that. I will be dead and gone…and thrilled I was never forced to accept something so unnecessary.

  2. These early electric cars were so modern. It would be another decade before gas cars would replace their acetlyene lamps with electric ones. The electric car owner then, as now, could charge at home, while his gas car friends had to find a pharmacy and (I presume) buy "gas" in 1-gallon tin cans they would then have to pour into their car. The electric starter was even more years into the future. You and I could drive this car today, with only a little instruction. Try that with a Model T (see Youtube). If you’re not impressed with this 1898 car than you’re not imagining 1898 was really like. Remember the competitor to the early cars (gas, electric and steam) was a horse and buggy, with a stable boy and stable included. And as they noted back then, the horse eats whether he’s pulling the buggy or not and you’re the one buying the oats.


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