In 1921 Frenchman Bertrand Montet founded the firm Derby at a time when cycle cars were riding a wave of popularity. The first Derby was fitted with a motorcycle V-twin engine imported from America. This was soon replaced by a Chapuis-Dornier four-cylinder, 900cc, water-cooled engine. Both models had three speed transmissions. The radiator of the Chapuis-Dornier motor looked a bit like the then-popular 5 CV Citroen.
The last Derby cars were more interesting. The L2 of 1931 was a four-cylinder, 6 CV (rated horsepower) front wheel drive, and the L8 of 1933 was an 11 CV front wheel drive, with a 2-liter V8 motor. Also at that time another model was fitted with a Meadows ED 1.5-liter engine.
In 1933, the market seemed doomed, but in one last effort, W.D. Hawkes launched a luxury front wheel drive V8, at a time when this type of car was not popular. However, it stunned the opposition and stung Citroen into presenting its own V-8 (a front wheel drive 22 horsepower rated car) a year later (but this car was not produced in large numbers).
The firm decided to stop making cars in 1936, likely because its vehicles were overly crafted compared to high-volume production cars.
From 1920 to 1930, the Derby cars were conventional with proprietary engines from Ruby, Scap and Chapius Dornier. Derby cars were very successful with their racing cycle cars and voiturettes with engines less than two liters. After the original Derby Engineer Monsieur Montet died, the company was bought by William Hawkes, an English racecar driver. Hawkes' fiancée, Miss Gwenda Stewart, was also a racecar driver.
Gwenda Stewart raced at Brooklands and also at Montlhery, near Paris, driving Morgans. William Hawkes bought a Miller FWD for Miss Stewart from the United States and the Derby Company was responsible for the maintenance and fine-tuning of the car. Eventually, the car was rebuilt by Derby and renamed the Derby Miller. Miss Stewart broke many speed records at Montlhery, many of which still stand today.