Tag: grand prix

Henry Ford’s Wife Wouldn’t Drive Ford Model T – She Kept Her Electric Car!

To many, electric cars are a completely new thing. However, they actually have a long history in the United States. For some time, they were the top dog. However, due to battery limitations many decades ago, they got replaced with gasmobiles.

With recent advancements, electric cars are back. But it’s important to note that many of their key benefits are the same today as they were back in the early 20th century.

For example, they are much simpler, cleaner, safer, and nicer to drive. Henry Ford’s wife knew this, as did many women of the early 20th century. Clara Ford apparently wouldn’t drive the Model T. She stuck to her electric car instead, a 1914 Detroit Electric.

Girls dig electric cars. At least that was the marketing message back in 1915, when petrol-powered autos were beginning to decisively pull away from electric ones. Battery-powered vehicles retained popularity among female drivers in cities, who valued them for their reliability — they wouldn’t blow up, as gas cars were known to do on occasion — and ease of use. 

Clara Ford, wife of Henry Ford, whose Model T all but decimated the electric car, drove a 1914 Detroit Electric. (What her husband made of the fact that she wasn’t driving a Ford is lost to history.) The Detroit models could run 80 miles on a single charge, with a top speed of about 20 mph.

electric car


First Fords at Le Mans

First Fords at Le Mans

Most of us tend to think that Fords did not play much of a part at Le Mans until the early 1960s. But that is not quite the case. Charles Montier, a French Ford dealer, (called “Le Sorcier” by the locals long before Gordini) entered the famous endurance race in 1923, 1924 and 1925. Few people even realize that a Model T Ford not only raced in that grueling event (won by a Chenard Walcker) but finished in 14th place in the first ever 24 hours of Le Mans. But the Montier-Fords were just getting a start; amazingly, by the 1930s Montier-Fords would participate in a number of Grand Prix events, racing against Alfa Romeo, Mercedes Benz and Bugatti.

Charles Montier was the son of a blacksmith in rural France. While still in his teens, he helped his father build a steam powered wagon that scared the locals. From there he moved to Paris and on to a varied career in the burgeoning French motor car world including a spell building racers for Darracq, ultimately setting up his own business based around selling, modifying and racing Fords.

The Grand Prix Montier-Fords

Encouraged by his efforts at Le Mans, Montier kept up the development of his Ford based racers and appeared at many events throughout France and Belgium and even made occasional forays to Grands Prix as far away as Spain and Morocco. Joined later by his son Ferdinand, the Montier team often fielded two cars and even sold a few to amateur racer customers. 

Montier’s career had many ups and downs and side projects that all serve to show the combination of determination and engineering skill that possibly deserve more recognition than he currently enjoys. He raced against some of the greats of the day, often gaining class victories, and such names as Tazio Nuvolari, and Albert Divo, Giovanni Agnelli, and the King of Spain all are part of the Montier’s story.

The car that ran at the first Le Mans 24 has been restored in France and has made appearances in recent years at the Le Mans Classic event surprising all who had thought that Ford’s participation in the famous ‘Vingt-Quatre Heures du Mans’ had started with the legendary GT40!

Parts of this story have been told in French publications over the years but little was ever written about his exploits in English. In addition, this VeloceToday Select Folio includes period photos and a complete listing of all races, hillclimbs, and Grands Prix entered by the Montier-Fords from 1921-1934.


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