France wants ‘national treasure’ car back

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The U.S. government wants to seize Charles Morse’s car, because the French government considers it a national treasure.

The Seattle car collector says  he wants to be reimbursed the $927,518 he paid for the historic 1919 Turcat-Mery touring car.

"It’s a one-off automobile with a wonderful history to it. It was built for the Duc de Montpensier, an heir to the French throne," Morse told The Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

According to a report by The Associated Press, The Duc de Montpensier was a descendant of the Orleans branch of the Bourbon family, which reigned in France from 1589 to 1848 and owned the French castle of Randan in Puy-de-dome.

He had the vehicle customized on the Turcat Chassis by Henri Rougier, a famous cyclist and race car driver. When he died in 1924 without children, his wife inherited the Turcat. She remarried, and the elegant, silver and tan car was passed down through the generations until 1991, when the French government classified the royal estate at the Randan castle, including the car, as historical monuments.

U.S. authorities say the historical classification prohibited the export of the Turcat,, which had several owners before it was purchased by Morse.

In July 2005, the Turcat arrived at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, according to the AP story. Shortly thereafter, Morse showed the car at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in California, taking top honors in its class.

Morse contends that he was sold the car J. Braam Ruben of Find Automobiles in Utrecht, Netherlands, and did not know the car was protected as a French national treasure.

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