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Monart Motors Co.
Monart Motors Company, 1942-1943; Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Associated Builders
Monart Sales, Brooks Stevens

Just as the United States became directly involved in World War II, The Monart Motors Co., of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, found that their normally abundant supply of Mercury station wagons was quickly being depleted by the Defense Department who were buying up every wagon that they could find. 

Normally that would be a good thing, however starting in February of 1942, production of new passenger vehicles came to a standstill as Detroit’s auto manufacturers diverted all of their manufacturing capacity to military contracts. Faced with increasing demand and no wagons to sell, Monart’s owners, Manfred and Harold Warshauer, came up with a brilliant plan to convert the coupes and sedans remaining in inventory into station wagons.

New cars in dealers’ inventory as of January 1, 1942 were requisitioned by the US Government and reserved for purchase by approved ‘essential users’ who included the armed forces, civil defense agencies and core businesses vital to the defense of the nation.* Luckily, Monart’s potential wagon customers all fell into the essential category, so they could build wagons as long as they could locate new donor chassis.

*Jan 1, 1942 – The Freezing Order: The government banned the sale of all new cars until Jan 15th when a rationing plan would be released. 

Jan 10, 1942 - The Freezing Order was amended to permit the sale of cars to the following: 1) US Army, Navy, Marine Corps. and certain other US Government Agencies; 2) Certain individuals with an assigned rating of A-1-J or higher; 3) US Defense or Armed Forces contractors holding an A-1-J or higher rating. 

Jan 14, 1942 – The Stockpile Order: The government issued an order to stockpile all cars shipped after Jan. 15. Vehicles shipped after that date could not be sold until permission to sell was granted by the government. Obtaining said permission took many months, and some approved buyers had to wait as long as a year to get a vehicle. 

Dealers were required to make the tires and tubes from stockpiled vehicles available for sale to any "appropriate agency" if so requested. The selling price of stockpiled vehicles was limited to the manufacturer's list price (fob), plus federal excise tax, freight and 5% of the list price plus freight, or $75, whichever was lower. Starting on Feb. l, dealers were allotted a monthly allowance of 1% of the list, or $15, whichever was lower, for storage, maintenance, insurance and finance charges. 

Jan 15, 1942 – The planned rationing order was postponed indefinitely. 

Feb 1, 1942 - All US motor vehicle production is halted. 

Feb 14, 1942 – The Mothball Order - The government places all new cars currently in dealer inventory into long-term storage.

In September of 1942, Warshauer commissioned another Milwaukee firm, Brooks Stevens Design Associates, to come up with a multipurpose wagon body that would meet the varied needs of their target customers.

The Monart was not Stevens’ first station wagon design. A picture in the Packard Motor Co. archives at the Detroit Public Library shows a fastback wooden station wagon body on a 1937 Packard 120 whose streamlined bodywork looked very much like the first Chrysler Town & Country Wagons that appeared in 1941. The 4-door wagon, supposedly built in 1940 by an unknown coachbuilder for a Packard Motor Co. client, mimicked the style of the English shooting brake as only the rear doors were made from wood, the two front doors were all-steel units painted the same color as the body.

Requirements included a seating capacity of up to 12 passengers as well as the ability to carry cargo and injured passengers if the need arose. The final requirement was that the additional bodywork be constructed entirely out of wood, as the military had already requisitioned all of the nation’s steel and aluminum for the foreseeable future.

Brooks Stevens furnished the Warshauers with two wagon proposals, the first was a 9-passenger suburban that could be built from existing 2-door donor vehicles, the second, a 12-passenger suburban that was designed to be built from 4-door donors. 

The 9-passenger version had two center-facing bench seats in the rear that could be removed creating enough space for three stretchers if the vehicle was pressed into ambulance duty. The two-door body could be built from two-door coupes and sedans and the rear compartment was accessible via traditional clamshell rear doors. 

The 12-passenger version featured 4 rows of forward facing bench seats with entrance to the two rearmost positions via a small passageway that ran alongside the passenger side of the vehicle’s interior. 

The Milwaukee Art Museum’s Brooks Stevens Collection included a rendering of the wagon dated 9-26-1942 as well as a photograph of a completed vehicle dated 10-12-1942.

The Monart wagons had an extremely long body with a corresponding rear overhang that had been seen on a few custom woodys built by Mifflinburg as early as 1938. A big difference was that while the rear of the Mifflinburg bodies slanted downwards in a straight line form the bottom of the rear window, the Stevens-designed Monarts had a more streamlined rear-end with an inward curve at the bottom.

The need for civil defense vehicles increased as the war wore on and station wagons conversions became Monart’s main source of income from late 1942 through 1944. As new wagons were impossible to find, many firms - including Campbell-Midstate, Cantrell, and Derham –turned to mounting wooden station wagon bodies on both new and used passenger car chassis.

The Warshauers even prepared a sales pamphlet for the Monart wagons entitled, ‘Conservation in the War Effort’. The brochure stated:

"The need for transportation by the Government has resulted in the designing of a satisfactory station wagon to be built over frozen new passenger cars now in dealers' stocks. The theory is, that this station wagon in two models will carry nine and twelve passengers respectively on the same chassis and tires which originally only carried four to six passengers."  

"These conversions have been executed entirely of wood and non-strategic materials throughout with the exception of bolts, screws, and bracings. The conversion also releases, for complete salvage, several hundred pounds of steel in unused body parts."

The rear end of two-door donors was cut off just behind the B-pillars while the four-door donors were cropped just behind the C-pillars. Both cars retained their original rear fenders which could be equipped with fender skirts, providing Monart still had some in stock. Purchasers could request a 6- or 8-cylinder engine, and the panels in the ash-framed body could be built using maple or mahogany veneered paneling.

The brochure stated a 9-passenger wagon retailed for $1,950, the 12-passenger for $2,000 – both prices included the donors - $1,150 for the Mercury coupe or $1,200 for the sedan.

Production of the Monart Carry-Alls ceased during 1943 when the supply of chassis ran out and the Warshauers withdrew from the coachbuilding business. They continued to repair and refurbish products of the Ford Motor Co. at their 631 N. Cass St. dealership, and resumed sales of new Lincolns and Mercury at the end of the war.

No surviving Monart Carry-Alls are known to exist.

The Warshauer’s garnered some unwanted attention in 1954 when Manfred Warshauer and his son Harold were convicted of Federal income tax evasion relating to fraudulent 1947 personal income tax returns - the government claimed the pair owed a total of $55,663 in additional taxes for 1947. 

The Monart Ford, Lincoln and Mercury dealerships folded in 1955, no doubt in large part to the negative publicity generated by the trial and subsequent conviction. At the time Manfred was the firm’s secretary-treasurer, Harold was president. Subsequent investigations into Monart Motors’ tax returns resulted in more questionable filings and by 1959 the firm’s former officers owed $428,179 in back taxes and penalties.

© 2004 Mark Theobald - 






Glenn Adamson - Industrial Strength Design: How Brooks Stevens Shaped Your World 

Brooks Stevens Collection - Milwaukee Art Museum, 750 N. Lincoln Memorial Dr
Milwaukee, Wisconsin

David Fetherston - American Woodys

David Fetherston - Woodys

Automobile Quarterly - Vol 1 No 1 

Automobile Quarterly - Vol 2 No 4 

Automobile Quarterly - Vol 3 No 2 

Automobile Quarterly - Vol 38 Number 3

"Cantrell and His Copiers" - Packard Cormorant - Winter 1977 pp2

Bob Zimmerman - "Packard’s Unpromoted Station Wagons" - Packard Cormorant - #99 pp24

U.S. Military Wheeled Vehicles

Donald J. Narus - Great American Woodies and Wagons

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