1907 Métallurgique Maybach
- Year of manufacture1907
- Chassis number577
- Lot number356
- Number of seats2
- Exterior colourOther
- Fuel typePetrol
The ex-Douglas Fitzpatrick
1907 Métallurgique-Maybach Zeppelin Airship-Engined Edwardian Three-Seater
Registration no. MM 1907
Chassis no. 577
Here we at Bonhams are honoured to offer to the market, for the first time in 30 years, one of the most iconic pure-enthusiast cars ever to have featured within the British register. It is one of the longest-lived aeronautical-engined motor vehicles preserved for over a century. And - indeed - this ex-Douglas Fitzpatrick Metallurgique-Maybach has survived as an awesome Edwardian-era car of the most stupendous presence and majesty.
It also became - during the late Mr Fitzpatrick's long ownership - one of the most iconic of all early cars to grace race, sprint, rally and hill-climb events organised by the standard-setting British Vintage Sports Car Club. And this stupendous machine is absolutely in the motoring monster tradition of Count Zborowski's contemporary 'Chitty-Bang-Bang's, and of both the gigantic Land Speed Record-breaking Fiat 'Mephistopheles' and the 200-horsepower 'Blitzen' Benz.
Before World War 1, Metallurgique was a high-quality Belgian motor manufacturer. This surviving example of their fine work began life in 1907 - as confirmed by its Veteran Car Club dating certificate, number 656, preserved in the documentation file which accompanies this Lot. In original form this Metallurgique was a special 60/80hp model, fitted with 'a mere' 10-litre, 100-horsepower engine, and apparently intended for national record-breaking. Quite unusually for large-engined cars of that period it featured modern shaft-drive to the rear axle, rather than chain-drive. For record-breaking - or competition use of some similar kind - it featured a specially high-geared back-axle ratio, and it was acquired reputedly by one-time British Land Speed Record holder Ernest Eldridge - that great enthusiast for massively-powerful, big-engined record cars who would create the Fiat 'Mephistopheles' for his successful Land Speed Record attempt in 1923.
Ernest Eldridge is believed to have sold the Metallurgique - apparently only capable of 99 mph - to Messrs Cole and Tillett, who in 1919 decided its 10-litre engine was inadequate for their needs. They decided to lengthen the chassis, likely with Eldridge's engineering input, to accommodate this enormous German 1910 21-litre Maybach Type AZ 6-cylinder engine.
Wilhelm Maybach, was the "King of Designers" and "Father of Mercedes", and the stated purpose of his new company (Luftfahrzeug-Motorenbau GmbH, based in Bissingen, Germany) was "the construction of engines for airships". This came about through the co-operation between Graf Ferdinand von Zeppelin and Maybach. In 1910, the first airship fitted with this Type AZ engine (designed by son Karl Maybach), was the incredible Zeppelin LZ6. The engine had a superb power-to-weight ratio and was designed so that pistons, cylinders and valves could be replaced easily during flight when the engine was switched off. The subsequent LZ10 "Schwaben" powered by three AZ engines carried passengers on scheduled flights from 1911. Even in its early form, the AZ developed 195bhp at 1,350rpm and was continuously rated for 180bhp at 1,200rpm.
Surviving Zeppelin Maybach engines are in their own right incredibly rare, and to have one in good running order and with an almost continuous history, is probably unique.
Following the Maybach engine's installation and initial use in 1919, the car slowly fell derelict over time in Mr Cole's premises at Brundall, near Norwich, where it lay until rescued in 1950 by local enthusiast Douglas Fitzpatrick, scion of the Sheringham Estate on the north Norfolk coast. He would recall, during his school-days in the 1920s: "...a motoring enthusiast friend of my father telling me about racing cars - and how early racing engines were really engines....'You could step inside a piston ring of some of these racing cars and draw it up to your waist', he said...
"This idea just fascinated my impressionable mind..." he admitted, before going on to describe how his first sight of such a car, "...Sam Clutton's 12-litre Itala" - sold by Bonhams in 2012 for £1.74 million- was wonderful ..." - and when VSCC leading light Mr Clutton let him drive it "...sheer torque instead of building-up engine revs..." utterly captivated him, and as he admitted "...there is a fascination in the instantaneous response of the car to the slightest rev increase of the engine. I stepped out of the Itala more sold on Monsters than ever...".
One day in April 1950 he took a telephone call "...from a local farmer who knew about my interest in Veteran cars. There was a very rum-looking car in a shed in some property he had just acquired, and was I interested? I wasn't prepared for the sight when he opened the door of the shed. I looked in...and saw - The Monster. It had a magnificent, long, flat, much-riveted bonnet...an ugly two-seater body...I opened the bonnet. It was a splendid sight. Six of the largest cylinders I had ever seen...an enormous spoked fly-wheel...a handsome aluminium gearbox of huge dimensions...". Its tyres were beyond use. The Monster could not be towed. Mr Fitzpatrick had it delivered to his home by lorry.
He "...soon discovered that the abundant stamping of MM on every likely spot meant it was a Metallurgique from Marchienne in Belgium. Raymond Wright - son of the marque's pre-First World War UK importer - then identified it as having an essentially 1907 60/80hp chassis. The Maybach company in Germany confirmed the engine as being "...a proprietary unit they manufactured between 1910 and 1912 for use in motor boats, airships or for other 'special purposes'...". The number 30 is likely to indicate the first year of production.
Douglas Fitzpatrick continued: "I traced the previous owner to being a Mr Cole...it had been his brother's car, and he had died in 1920 soon after replacing the engine...". It appears that the Coles ran the Eastern Daily Press newspaper and that the car had been bought for the son-in-law of one of the brothers. Irrespective, it had been acquired from the late E.A.D. Eldridge and the engine had been changed in 1919, its replacement by the 21-litre Maybach unit requiring chassis lengthening ahead of the dash bulkhead by some 18 inches. Yet it remained relatively compact - the chassis even now "...having only a 10 1/2-feet wheelbase...".
Upon total strip-down the car appeared to be in generally excellent mechanical condition, apart from the crown wheel and pinion. In 1953 Mr Fitzpatrick was introduced to engineer Ken Fantom, and by 1955 a new CWP had been completed and the rear axle reassembled. "In the meantime La Met had found her way to Panelcraft Ltd in Putney" for a new body to be fitted aft of the bonnet and dash which were retained "...being things of beauty". Panelcraft, fitted a new floor and three handsome bucket seats, the rearmost being "...mounted on the 10-gallon oil tank, engine lubrication being by dry-sump...
Douglas Fitzpatrick's' account continued: "One Sunday morning in November 1955, under the enthusiastic guidance of Mr H.S.Fry of Panelcraft, La Metallurgique was pushed out onto the deserted Putney High Street. Deserted, that is, save for a few VSCC members who had come to witness the wakening of the Monster after its 35 years' slumber.
"After a tow to the top of Putney Hill....the car was pushed down the other side, with me on board wondering what was going to happen. I let in the clutch, there was a roar, and I was off.
"Unless one has experienced the seven-league-boot sensation of this type of car it is difficult to imagine what a take-off is like, even in second gear. Second (2.5:1) represents 41mph per 1,000rpm, which is far higher than the top gear of any car except another Monster. The big engine has only to accelerate from, say, 300rpm to 900rpm, which it can do practically instantaneously, while the drag of the car makes no apparent difference and as even in second gear it is propelled eight feet forward per explosion one feels just hurled along.
"I turned her around outside the KLG factory and up the hill again at a fast tickover in an astonishingly quiet third gear (1.7:1), and then drove home to Norfolk...
This impressive car's restoration included fitting the distinctive 1907-style 22-gallon radiator custom-made for him by Delaney-Gallay, and that unique three-seat body fashioned by Panelcraft Ltd. The side-valve 21-litre Maybach engine was said to deliver 195-horsepower - and the great car's 1950s gearing offered speeds per 1,000rpm engine revs of 20mph in first gear, 41mph in 2nd, 60mph in 3rd and 81mph in top. At the rated 1,350 rpm the car is travelling at 110 mph and in a 1966 report, Mr Fitzpatrick reckoned his Metallurgique was capable of 120mph" (see file).
When Bill Boddy of 'Motor Sport' magazine experienced this magnificent machine in 1957 he wrote: "Riding on this Metallurgique is to put the clock back to an age long past... When 85mph from an E-Type Vauxhall 30/98 was the peak of motoring, imagine being overtaken by a car doing only a little over 1,000rpm!...".
He continued: "When really motoring Mr Fitzpatrick goes up to a daring 1,300rpm..." (he later claimed to take it up to 1,400 rpm!) "...and after cruising at a lazy 80-90mph we essayed some acceleration figures..." - which recorded 0-60mph in 11.7seconds, and 0-80mph in 21.8 seconds. The standing-start quarter-mile was covered in 17 seconds - at a time when the production Jaguar XK140 sports car took 17.4secs to cover the same distance from a standing start...
In 1980 writer Doug Nye sampled "La Met" for the American 'Road & Track' magazine, extolling "...the type of high-speed cruising any classic car enthusiast can appreciate - like 9mph per 100 - yes 100 - rpm in top gear". Douglas Fitzpatrick told him that more recent research suggested that Eldridge had actually acquired the great car either just before or perhaps during World War 1 from the estate of none other than David Bruce Brown, America's greatest Grand Prix driver of the Edwardian era. Bruce Brown had been the youthful winner of the 1910 American Grand Prize race at Savannah, Georgia, in a giant Benz, and won the race again for Fiat in 1911. He also led the 1912 Grand Prix de l'ACF ('the French Grand Prix' itself) at Dieppe in a Fiat, but tragically lost his life in one of the cars during practice for that year's US Grand Prize race at Milwaukee.
Behind that 54-inch long, 24-valve 6-cylinder engine with its eccentric fuel pressure, and oil pressure and scavenge pumps on the right-hand side lurks the massive vaned flywheel and clutch assembly. A short propeller shaft, drives to the centrally-slung gearbox, another short prop-shaft then powering the massive back axle with vast centre casing for that tall crown-wheel and pinion assembly. The car has 14-inch drum brakes, a transmission brake but no front-wheel brakes as was common in period.
Through 1956 into 1957 Douglas Fitzpatrick corrected the inevitable teething troubles within his restored Monster before - over the following 35-plus years - La Met rumbled on to complete tens of thousands of road miles virtually trouble-free, cared for by his resident German mechanic Gerry Majewski. "She has been hill-climbed, sprinted and circuit-raced, and still holds a current FIA Class A standing-start 500-metre world record, in the over-10-litre class....". The car can be seen online in fascinating older Pathe News clips of 1957 and 1967, and fittingly is featured in the opening racing scenes of the classic 1968 film, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.
Most significantly, Mr Fitzpatrick also took "La Met" touring extensively throughout Europe, venturing as far afield from Sheringham as Athens, Greece - and all without a scrap of weather protection. He would say "It's just like motor-cycling". Some motor-cycle...
For many years the 21-litre Maybach engine breathed through a pair of 2-inch SU carburettors, latterly replaced by two massive as-original Brooklands 'rat-traps'. Its six huge cylinders are each individually water-jacketed , and are clamped to a massive aluminium crankcase. Each cylinder has a T-shaped combustion chamber, with two inlet valves to one side, two exhausts to the other. Their respective springs, tappets and pushrods are exposed beneath the heads on either side. Bore and stroke are a touch over 160mm x 170mm, roughly 6.3 x 6.7-inches.
The great car is stark and rakish at first sight but has beautiful patina with its deeply quilted leather upholstery worn and its woodwork weathered. Mr Fitzpatrick always insisted that "La Met" is really quite a small car, 188-inches in length, on that 130.8-inch wheelbase, with front and rear tracks of 59-inches and 60-inches, and standing just over 60-inches tall. It scales around 1.8 tons, distributed virtually 50/50 front to rear.
Major articles on this great car appeared in 'The Autocar' of 8 June 1956, 'Motor Sport' January 1957, 'Motor' 26 December 1964, 'Road & Track' February 1980, 'Collectors Car' July 1981, and more recently 'Classic & Sports Car' November 2015. Copies of all these and much more are preserved in the accompanying documentation file.
Mick Walsh of C&SC made it his "Best Drive of 2015", noting "The buzz from fulfilling a long-held ambition to drive the car lasted for weeks", while the late 'Steady' Barker claimed that "...commanding the Maybach-powered beast was one of his greatest motoring experiences".
Available with the car are various spares, including wooden casting patterns for the individual cylinder blocks, a steering box, two stub axles and three 880 x 120 mm wire wheels previously fitted, together with some other original paperwork. These can be collected by arrangement with the vendor, who is ready to help the new custodian if required.
No stranger to Goodwood, "La Met" made its first appearance in the 1996 Cartier Style et Luxe concours, then featured in the following year's Hill Climb, reappearing there most recently in 2015.
Lauded, and recently described as "one of the world's greatest cars", it is hardly surprising then that this magnificent Metallurgique-Maybach became one of the British Vintage Sports Car Club's most illustrious and iconic feature machines throughout multiple decades.
In current ownership, it has received constant care, and earlier this year received some additional mechanical and cosmetic attention. It has been carefully prepared prior to sale by a highly respected restoration company, with any repairs and refurbishment required carried out to a high standard. Extensive details are in the accompanying car file. With a current MoT and taxed, the car is very much in a state to continue its stellar career. A video of the car being gently enjoyed on the road in late April this year can be found at https://youtu.be/1BOiyB0YF2I.
For the past 30 years the current vendor has maintained "La Met's" hyperactive lifestyle in the frequently-competing VSCC manner of which the great car's original saviour Douglas Fitzpatrick would surely have approved.
With the earliest surviving, fully functioning Maybach-Zeppelin engine beating at its heart, the Metallurgique-Maybach is a unique, utterly iconic feature of not only the British Edwardian, Historic and Vintage landscape, but also of the global treasury of meaningful motor cars.