Jump to content


Photo

Charles Montier and his French Racing Fords


  • Please log in to reply
5 replies to this topic

#1 ChrisMartin

ChrisMartin
  • New Member

  • 5 posts
  • Joined: August 11

Posted 05 October 2022 - 22:05

For anyone interested in the lesser known names of racing in the 1920s (and '30s) this new book will be a revelation.

'Charles Montier and his French Racing Fords' is available now direct from Amazon.

I first found the name C.Montier more than ten years ago listed as finishing 14th in the first ever Le Mans 24 hour race in 1923. 

He was driving a Ford and at that time it could only have been a Model T!

So my curiosity was kicked into action; who would race a Model T Ford around Le Mans for 24 hours?

Who was C. Montier?

 

There was next to nothing on record in English, and very little in French but I persevered and bit by bit, unearthing old French car magazines and books I managed to put the story together.

I also tracked down many old photos, and an original sales brochure along with many ads and race reports from contemporary papers and magazines.

Further research filled in the details of the Montier family; Charles's father was a blacksmith, his brother Eugène was a partner in their garage businesses and his son Ferdinand also raced.

Montier modified and sold Fords and in the course of my research I tracked down a few surviving cars, found a couple of replicas and even exposed one that is a fake claiming a false identity with FIVA papers!

There is also a quite impressive list of competition results from races, sprints and hill climbs.

 

Along the course of my research I had a lot of help from a few people in France, especially Pierre who has restored one of the Montier cars.  My plan had been to tell the story to the English-speaking world but Pierre suggested there would be enough interest in a French edition of the book too so I then translated the whole text into French (with Pierre's help proof reading) so now there are two versions of the same story.

For anyone interested the French version is titled 'Charles Montier: Sorcier de la Ford T'.

 

The Montier family were originally from Richelieu, a small historic town about 300kms south of Paris and coincidentally, the FFVE (the French national organising group for all car clubs) and some local dignitaries had decided to erect a commemorative blue plaque at the site of the old family blacksmith's forge on the edge of town and set a date to coincide with a biennial vintage car rally around the town over the first weekend in September. 

Pierre asked if I could have the book published at the same time as it would add weight to the weekend's activities. 

One thing led to another and I was invited as a 'guest of honour' and even though it is a long way to go from Australia for just a weekend, I gladly accepted ignoring the fact that the limited market for such a book meant that I would never recover the $6,000 I spent on flights and hotels. 

Then, I was asked to make a speech in the town square, in French, in front of a hundred people!

Anyway, that all resulted in a great weekend, four Montier-Fords attended, quite possibly the largest number ever seen together, there was much food, wine and champagne, and we sold all fifty copies of the French book that I had arranged to be delivered for the event.

 

So for anyone interested the English copy is available here:

 

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B0B6L3Q5TW

 

I look forward to any constructive comment and feedback.

 

305760889_2305967096227455_2256846781647


Edited by ChrisMartin, 06 October 2022 - 01:18.


Advertisement

#2 Ray Bell

Ray Bell
  • Member

  • 76,592 posts
  • Joined: December 99

Posted 05 October 2022 - 23:06

Sounds like a great project and an interesting visit to France, Chris...

 

And an outstanding first post from someone who's been a member here for eleven years.

 

You've identified, I think, an interesting question. "In a land of Delage, Bugatti, Delahaye, Salmson, Peugeot, Voisin etc, why would someone bother with racing Fords?"



#3 ChrisMartin

ChrisMartin
  • New Member

  • 5 posts
  • Joined: August 11

Posted 06 October 2022 - 01:14

Thanks Ray, and yes the trip to France was a blast.  Racing around the 500-year-old town square in 100-year-old cars, (and the drivers weren't kids) left a lasting memory.

 

So, two answers; yes I have been a member for that long. but that was in the course of my research, occasionally checking in to see if there was any info on Montier (there wasn't) and I had not thought to hang around otherwise.

However, I have a couple of other, equally obscure book projects on the go, so I will be back with more left-field questions soon enough.

 

As to the why race a Ford question, I suspect it is a rather involved saga. 

Montier was an engineer at Darracq in the early part of the 20th century at a time when that firm was very active in road races and speed records so he would have been exposed to the thrills of speed early on. He then opened a garage business in Tours and became a Ford dealer.  It is fair to guess that after WW1 when he opened his Parisian showroom and then workshop that he combined his taste for competition with his need to promote his Ford agency.  While those obvious brands you quoted would all have made fine racers, the Fords were tough and easily made to go faster, and as they were being built in France, initially in Bordeaux, later at Asnieres, they were cheap too.  

For how he actually made them go faster, well you will have to read the book...............


Edited by ChrisMartin, 06 October 2022 - 01:15.


#4 Ray Bell

Ray Bell
  • Member

  • 76,592 posts
  • Joined: December 99

Posted 06 October 2022 - 02:40

I've sent the link to Bob Trevan, he's a T-,model tragic...

 

And I wonder if Pat Clarke has a photo of the Le Mans car, he took a stack of photos of cars at the American Museum of Speed in Lincoln, Nebraska. I was quite surprised to find they have that car there, now I want to see it.



#5 ChrisMartin

ChrisMartin
  • New Member

  • 5 posts
  • Joined: August 11

Posted 06 October 2022 - 03:49

I know Bob Trevan, he bought a running '27 chassis from me ten or so years ago.

The car that went to the American Museum of Speed was thought to 'possibly' be the Le Mans car but not proven. 

Montier kept no records, or at least none that survive and that is the only one of its type found so far.

The confusion arises because Ferdinand, Charles's son, later said as they were always short of money to go racing they constantly updated and modified their cars rather than build new ones in which case that car should have been found as it last raced in 1925 with several changes, but it was found in the 1923 spec, no front brakes, engine sleeved down to 2 litres etc. 

So either they made another the same, or maybe sold that one on after the 1923 race and built up another for '24. 

All of that is detailed in the book.

Whatever, it is the closest example surviving of the 1923 car and may be the 'one'.

Yes, I was surprised when it sold at auction in Paris for 30,000Euros and that the high bidder was not French.

I also have many photos of it in the museum in Nebraska.

Meanwhile here is a link to a video of the event last month in Richelieu. 

I am the grumpy looking one (an in joke, I just look that way!) in the grey T-shirt at 1.52 and with shades on the right at 3.45.

Some nice cars in action though.

 


Edited by ChrisMartin, 06 October 2022 - 03:54.


#6 RAP

RAP
  • Member

  • 690 posts
  • Joined: December 03

Posted 06 October 2022 - 09:12

Order placed !  Brilliant that you have covered one of the more obscure topics  :D

Richard