This car, chassis 20894, was auctioned by Christies at Retromobile in 2007. The following is an excerpt from their lot description:
Model history by Christies
Etablissements Bertrand Montet was a general engineering company that had been founded in 1912. After the First World War it began dealing in the surplus of ex-military Harley Davidson motorcycles which were in relatively abundant supply, before engaging itself in the cyclecar market using the Harley Davidson V-twin engines. The name “Derby” was chosen for its association with sport, and a four-cylinder version was presented alongside the V-twin at the Paris Salon d’Auto in 1921. The cycle cars were almost immediately entered into various competitions, and the successes they enjoyed encouraged the marque to expand with a new chassis accommodating a number of body-styles ranging from the two-seater sportscar through to more commercial merchant’s vans.
Despite handsome coachwork designs and their accomplishments on the track, orders never truly took off. The 200 units produced in 1926 would be the highest level the company would see, and yet the cars continued to evolve. The 1928 Salon d’Auto saw the introduction of the six cylinder engine by C.I.M.E, a Loire-based company renowned for the quality of its steel, and which produced both the motor and gearbox for a number of small French firms. Unfortunately the founder of the company, Montet, died the following year, and its difficulties would become slowly compounded by the creeping Depression.
Derby forged onwards, presenting its new L and then L1 chassis in 1928 and 1929, still clothed in remarkably elegant coachwork and now all supplied with C.I.M.E. engines of four- or six cylinders, the largest of which had a capacity of 1,837cc. More racing victories in the new cars still could not stem the declining sales, however, and these models were produced in very small numbers. Financial backing was forthcoming from Englishman Wallace Douglas and brief respite was found with the adoption of front-wheel drive and all-independent suspension on the L2 chassis of 1931, but funds were still tight, and a further V8 model could not revive the company’s fortunes. It struggled through until 1936 when strikes finally sounded the death-knoll.
It was then sold into a collection in Northern France, followed by a collection in the Mayenne region in 2001, and to the vendor in 2003.
Today this rare, rakish car presents very well indeed. While in the Mayenne collection the bodywork was repainted in the black and red colour-scheme it wears today (and which suits the car very well indeed), but it was not “restored” as such since there was no need. In the current ownership the car has enjoyed a complete mechanical revision covering the engine, gearbox, and brakes, and the chassis has been restored. Still with its original faux-leather interior, it now exudes a delightful air of originality which is all the more attractive for the knowledge that under the skin everything is as it should be.
Research has unearthed only around ten Derby motor cars known to have survived, of which this in the only low-chassis Cruiser. As a car alone it has a charisma and elegance which makes one wonder why more were not sold; as the sole survivor of its kind, it becomes compelling for any lover of the rare or the unique.