Another Montier-Ford surfaces, and disappears again.

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Chris Martin 2
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Another Montier-Ford surfaces, and disappears again.

Post by Chris Martin 2 » Sat Nov 09, 2019 6:45 pm

Been a long time but I thought I would update on another Montier find, or at least why it will remain hidden.
Many of you may be aware of the story of the Schlumpf brothers who amassed a collection of cars, mostly Bugattis, in France which were then confiscated by the French government after their textile mills went out of business in the 1970s. That collection formed the basis of what is now the National Automobile Museum of France, known as ‘Cité De l’Automobile’ in Mulhouse. Anyway, while the main collection formed the core display of that museum Fritz Schlumpf had stored a few cars awaiting restoration in another building which was in his wife Arlette’s name. Among many unrestored Bugattis there was a solitary Montier-Ford in a sad condition. These were confiscated too and after Fritz died his widow fought a long court action to finally get them back in 1999 and then shortly before she too died in 2008 she negotiated to sell the lot through two well known specialist dealers; Bruno Vendiesse in France and Jaap Braam Ruben in Holland. At the time it was said she had an idea the collection of unrestored cars should stay together as some sort of memorial to her late husband but it seems this was not practical and while some vehicles were sold off separately many of the cars did indeed go to one buyer but the deal was supposed to be kept secret.

Until then there were only a couple of poor quality photos known of the Montier taken by a reporter allowed access to the dark building and all that was known about it was that a well-known Paris based auctioneer and valuer, Christian Huet, had inspected the collection at the time of the court case and listed the Montier as having been ‘poorly restored in the 1950s’.

So, how do I track this one down? After receiving no information from enquiries to the two dealers mentioned above I had to think laterally; so who might buy that many Bugattis? The Mullin Museum in Oxnard seemed a good place to start and after a tentative email sent late in 2014 I eventually received a reply that yes, Mr Mullin did have the Montier-Ford but it was in secure storage with no plans to display it in the museum or restore it.

Correspondence followed but of necessity very slowly as Pater Mullin has many interests including frequently travelling and showing his Bugatti, Delage and Delahaye masterpieces at the top concours shows around the world so waiting for an assistant at the museum to pass messages on, and then reply, entailed long waits.

So, I had enquired as they had no plans for the car if might it be for sale? Eventually I received a reply in 2016 saying “Peter would like to know your offer”.
I replied US$10,000.
Even that is probably way more than it is worth on the market, it needs total restoration, everything going through and what appears to be a rotten, and not original, body replacing with something more Montier-like. On top of that I would have the expense of shipping costs and arranging for the brake shoes and head gasket to be removed as the Australian authorities do not allow anything containing asbestos into the country.
As an indication of the lack of interest and values of these, the car that Montier had raced at Le Mans and was since totally restored and raced again in the Le Mans Classic in 2008 was sold at a well publicised auction in Paris in 2015 for 30,000 Euros (that is about US$33,000) and surprisingly for a car with that history the high bidder was not French but the American Museum of Speed in Lincoln Nebraska, where that car is still on display.
I explained all of this with my offer but some time later received a reply that the car was “not for sale”. We all know that everything is for sale, it is only the price that is the question, and I am sure Peter Mullin knows that too. Anyway, I let it go.

Early in 2017 I tried again, but as Pierre, a contact in France who is restoring a Montier himself was going to visit his son in San Francisco I arranged with the Mullin Museum for him to inspect the car at their warehouse. This he did and supplied me with a detailed report of its condition and several photos. It is all there mechanically, a correct Montier engine on what is certainly a Montier modified chassis but with a poorly made fabric body over a timber frame with woodworm.
So based on that information I renewed my offer and we went through the same; “Peter would like to know your offer”.
To which I sent the same reply.
No luck.

Last year I thought it may be worth asking again to see if anything had changed; again after some weeks, the reply came “Peter would like to know your offer”.
To which I sent the same reply yet again
This time Peter Mullin himself replied and said that as the car had come from the Schlumpf collection AND was reputed to have been owned by Ettore Bugatti himself he wanted to keep it with his collection. Well ok, so it is NOT for sale again, but I knew there was no connection to Bugatti so I had to reply again. How had someone so involved with the old car scene, and at the most expensive end too, been so ill-informed?
Previously, Pierre had alerted me to a report in the weekly French car magazine ‘La Vie de l’Auto’ that the National Museum in France (formerly the Schlumpf collection) had bought boxes of correspondence detailing all of Fritz Schlumpf’s deals buying, and attempting to buy the cars through the 1950s to the ‘70s. I ordered a copy of the magazine and when I had received and read it I wrote to the archivist in charge of the files, a Richard Keller, asking if they had any record of where the Montier came from.
I quickly received a detailed reply that it was bought from a M. Sipp of Marseilles who had been known to the Schlumpfs as a specialist dealer in the rare and obscure and had supplied them with about thirty cars over the years. The Montier even had been catalogued with the number FS 1878 and recorded as having been bought on July 31st 1961. There had been two other Model Ts in the so-called ‘reserve collection’; one a Tudor sedan bought from a M. Mette in 1962 and the records also listed a 4-seat Tourer bought on February 9th 1965 from the Bugatti Estate (without engine).
I had read before how Ettore Bugatti had supposedly used a humble Model T around his home, estate, stables and the factory at Molsheim and although Ettore himself died in 1947, the various assets of his estate were not wound up until the ‘60s and the Schlumpf’s bought many other items at that time. But, the Montier-Ford was not the Model T that had belonged to Bugatti.
So I wrote back with that information.

But it gets worse.
Later last year I bought a copy of a new book about the whole Schlumpf affair which has a lot of new information and attempts to correct the historical assumption that the two brothers destroyed the textile industry of north-eastern France while spending a fortune on expensive cars and living the high life. This was not the way it was, but for anyone curious about that I refer you to; Schlumpf – The Intrigue…. by Arnoud & Ard Op De Weegh published by Veloce. A fascinating story and recommended but back to the Montier and I was interested to read that the authors had also had access to the recently discovered Schlumpf correspondence files, which they revealed had come from Peter Mullin himself via the Seattle-based expert, author and collector Richard Adatto.
So, surely given that they had that evidence all along Peter Mullin should have known the Montier did not come from the Bugatti estate?
So, after writing to tell him what I knew I let it go, that was June last year and I received no reply.

Then in April this year I received an email from…………Richard Adatto.
With no other introduction or information just the simple question; “I have one of these cars. Do you know what car ran what race??”. Strange !
So, not letting on that I knew the connection between Adatto and Mullin (I even have one of Adatto’s books about the Mullin collection) I innocently asked “what car might that be?”
Further correspondence eventually revealed that he was asking about the Mullin Montier on behalf of Mr Mullin. He had been fishing just to find out if I knew anything significant about it, possibly curious as to why I was so keen to get it. I think he finally believed I knew no more than what I had already told, (and they should have already known anyway) and there was no famous race history or anything else to add any value. Richard Adatto then revealed that Mr Mullin was planning to sell the car along with others that had come from the Arlette Schlumpf estate that he no longer wanted, including, according to Adatto “about 19 cars and bikes and 2 fire trucks” in France next year. Ok, strange I thought, given shipping costs and auction fees, there would not be much point, but he might have his reasons. I wrote back to Mr Adatto asking if he intended to sell them at the annual Rétromobile show in Paris in February, the biggest and busiest car show in France which includes major auctions and at which Mr Mullin had previously displayed a Bugatti. He replied thanks for the info, confirmed nothing, but said Mr Mullin has his own ideas, he would be speaking to him in person soon and pass on my comments.

I heard nothing more and out of curiosity I decided to ask Mr Adatto if he had any further news regarding the planned sale in France as it is now November and if he was aiming at a Rétromobile auction February is only three months away. So finally I received another emailed reply yesterday saying “we are not selling this or any other cars at this time”. A curious use of ‘we’ implies Adatto is in some sort of partnership with Mullin but the frustrating point of all of this story is how can a car (or anything else) be alternately for sale and not for sale depending on when one asks?
All I was ever interested in was that one of the few surviving Montiers could be saved and restored, either by myself, or someone who knows what it is, rather than either sold as just another source of parts or an unknown modified T Speedster, or left to decay further unwanted in a warehouse.
Mr Mullin originally said he had no plans to restore it, and only later suggested he might, given his belief that it came from Bugatti, but as he now knows that to be untrue maybe it will be forgotten again.


Playswithbrass
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Re: Another Montier-Ford surfaces, and disappears again.

Post by Playswithbrass » Sat Nov 09, 2019 7:37 pm

Maybe with permission now granted for the Mullin development in Oxfordshire, England, they will choose what cars they wish to display, and are not parting with anything until they have decided.


Topic author
Chris Martin 2
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Re: Another Montier-Ford surfaces, and disappears again.

Post by Chris Martin 2 » Sat Nov 09, 2019 8:56 pm

That had occurred to me too, but the timing is odd, the planning for that was ok'd some time back.


Topic author
Chris Martin 2
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Re: Another Montier-Ford surfaces, and disappears again.

Post by Chris Martin 2 » Sat Nov 09, 2019 9:06 pm

I have photos of the Montier as it is in storage but I can't work out how to add them here; they are on my computer but don't have a url address. Any way to cut and paste?


wayne sheldon
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Re: Another Montier-Ford surfaces, and disappears again.

Post by wayne sheldon » Sat Nov 09, 2019 9:28 pm

Interesting tale! Frustrating how some of these hidden and/or lost treasures are treated so poorly by people that seem to have no real concern about their historic significance, whatever that significance may be.


DHort
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Re: Another Montier-Ford surfaces, and disappears again.

Post by DHort » Sat Nov 09, 2019 9:47 pm

Mr Martin. To add a photo you need to reply to a message, so click on 'Post Reply'. On the bottom of the page you see 'Attachments'. Click on that. Then you will see 'Add Files'. Click on that and upload your pictures. The most you can add is 5 per post. Hope that helps.


Topic author
Chris Martin 2
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Re: Another Montier-Ford surfaces, and disappears again.

Post by Chris Martin 2 » Sat Nov 09, 2019 10:38 pm

Thank you DHort for that info. Photos now attached.
Attachments
03.JPG
02.JPG
01.JPG


Tiger Tim
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Re: Another Montier-Ford surfaces, and disappears again.

Post by Tiger Tim » Sun Nov 10, 2019 12:08 am

I know it’s not correct but I kinda like that body.


Playswithbrass
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Re: Another Montier-Ford surfaces, and disappears again.

Post by Playswithbrass » Sun Nov 10, 2019 6:36 am

Planning permission was finally passed June 5 this year

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