Extreme Survivor: 1917 Monroe Roadster M3


In the early 1900s there were hundreds of companies building cars so there are many obscure brands we’ve never heard of. The Monroe brand is rare but not obscure and played an important role in the development of the automobile. The Monroe Body Company built car bodies for several automobile companies in the early 1900s, including Cadillac, Ford and Carter. When Cadillac bought the Monroe plants, R.Frank Monroe joined Billy Durant’s company, Chevrolet. Durant wanted an inexpensive car to compete with the Ford Model T, so the Monroe M-2 roadster and the Chevrolet version (the Four-Ninety touring) were developed. This M3 is listed here on eBay with a BIN of $11,000. It is a very rare car with less than a dozen said to exist. It was stored for at least 35 years and is in original condition. Most of these “survivor” prewar cars are actually older restorations. This Monroe appears to actually be original and unrestored with only electric start added and minor repairs.


The original Idaho license plate is still attached, plus a more recent Old Timer plate has been installed.


The upholstery might even be original, well at least what’s left of it.

engine 2

There is no word on the state of the engine. With the lower radiator hose disconnected it probably doesn’t run. It is a Sterling 120 CID overhead valve engine with 20 horsepower.


Hopefully there’s a collector out there somewhere that appreciates this old car. Perhaps they might leave it original. It would be fun to have this old Monroe around and to show at events, but it will likely end up in either a museum or private collection. Many will mistake it for a Model T. Mostly, it’s important this Monroe is preserved for future generations. The Monroe and the Chevy 490 were competitive to the Ford but the Monroe was much more advanced. It has an electrical system, a 3 speed transmission instead of the 2 speed band transmission and other features not available from Ford until 10 years later on the Model A.


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  1. Roselandpete

    The license plate is an understatement.

  2. Rick

    Always wanted an M3 – they’re fast and handle well. Plus its my favorite color – Black (sort of). Anyhow, the lower radiator hose was likely disconnected in anticipation of the legendary cold Idaho winters to keep the block from cracking. Based on that assumption, I would say its more likely that it runs if the radiator hose is disconnected.

    • Terri

      I am the owner of this beauty. Yes, we had everything drained and prepped for our cold Idaho winters. We actually drove her home from the auction the day we bought her. She should start right up with all the fluids replaced.

  3. grant

    This is why I come to this site. To see hundred year old breathing, smelly noisy history. Hopefully someone will love it and preserve it. It looks complete enough that if it doesn’t run it can be made to. Thanks for posting this.

  4. Bill

    It sometimes amazes me how little money these old, rare cars sell for. Shame this old gal doesn’t command a higher price.

    • brakeservo

      I’d be quite surprised if it even sells for anywhere near that number! Maybe, MAYBE $4000 but that’s it! Who daydreams of owning an old Monroe (Marilyn excepted)??

      • grant

        Shhh Brakes! I love that stuff like this is still cheap. I love these old prewar cars, and their reasonable for a collector car. I’m without a garage right now but when I’m not, I intend to have an A, a T, and perhaps an oddball or two for this.

  5. Ken Nelson

    Bright, beautiful sunny day and he parks it in a shadow then takes his photos – what’s wrong with this seller???? Drives me crazy when I can’t see the details on an interesting car! Maybe he really doesn’t want to sell it…….

    • Terri

      It’s true… maybe I don’t really want to sell her. What details do you wish you could see better?

  6. Jeff DeWitt

    That’s the sort of car if I could buy it I’d do just what was needed to get it in good mechanical condition (well, and fix the seat!), and drive the thing.

    It’d be fun to show up at a show and shine and have something like this lined up with all the cars with bellybutton motors.

    • Peter

      What’s a “bellybutton” motor?

      And I agree with all the love, here, for this car (though I’d never heard of one before) and for many of the same reasons, I’d love find one cheap–cheaper than $11K, but IF there’s only 12 in existence, some deep pockets might show up….

      I’d just do something with the seat, basic mechanicals (possibly add juice brakes? Looks like NO brakes up front…hmmm) and drive it locally, not worried about chips, kids, carts, doors or bird poop.



      • Matt Tritt

        Brakes on the front axle didn’t show up ’till the late 20’s on most cars. What with very narrow tires and only rear brakes, panic stopping on wet streets – especially heading down hill – is an exciting experience.

  7. Matt Tritt

    What strikes me most about the Monroe is the use of identical fenders at both ends. It hink it has a neat look, even if it was done to save money on body dies.

    • Biggles21

      Good eye Matt Tritt

  8. KO

    Different M3 than Jeff loves!

  9. DRV

    So when he sold and went to Chevy he still made a Monroe for a bit?
    Almost Every car was better than the Fords then, just not as inexpensive!
    Drive a 29 model A , then a ’29 Pontiac. Probably double the cost though.

  10. Sarah

    I own a 1917 Monroe! It’s in much better condition than the one pictured. Cool to own a rare car :)

    Like 2
  11. Jay monroe

    I am looking for Monroe roadster. Anybody know of one for sale ?

    Like 1

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