Davis Divan: Remembering the 1948 Three-Wheeled Sedan Dubbed the 'Ultimate Car Of The Future'

In the post-World War II era, the automotive industry was a center of innovation and opportunity.

With the American public clamoring for new vehicles and new technologies and materials readily available from wartime developments, the time was ripe for bold ideas, no matter how unconventional they might seem.

One such idea came from the creative mind of Indiana-based used car salesman Glenn Gordon "Gary" Davis.

Taking inspiration from the custom designs of renowned IndyCar designer Frank Kurtis, Davis introduced the Davis Divan, a luxurious three-wheeler.

This futuristic car with a fuel-efficient aluminum body and huge bench seat was marketed as a revolutionary concept that promised a glimpse of the automotive future, all at an affordable price of just $1,000.

Before the Davis Dewan, there was "The Californian", a custom three-wheel roadster built in 1941 by Frank Kurtis, who later became the designer for the Indianapolis 500 racing cars.

This unique vehicle was commissioned by Joel Thorn, heir to the Chase Bank fortune, a wealthy Californian and racing enthusiast.

The Kurtis took inspiration for its single front wheel from the Lockheed P-38 Lightning fighter aircraft.

In 1945, after moving to Southern California, Gary Davis purchased "The Californian" from Thorne and laid the foundation for the creation of the Davis Divan.

Between 1947 and 1949, the Davis Motorcar Company produced a total of 16 running vehicles, including 11 pre-production Divans as well as two prototypes and three military vehicles.

The Davis Divan had a length of 183.5 inches (466 cm) and a wheelbase of 109.5 inches (278 cm), remarkably long for a three-wheeled vehicle.

It stood 60.0 inches (152 cm) tall and weighed 2,450 pounds (1,110 kg).

With a width of 72.0 inches (183 cm), it was wide enough to seat four passengers simultaneously on its single bench seat; In fact, this feature inspired the car's name, which was the Arabic word for sofa or daybed.

The car also had a steel chassis and a chrome-trimmed aluminum body with a removable fiberglass top.

The body was constructed with a channel steel frame and 11 body panels made of aluminum and zinc, while the "Baby" prototype was constructed with a tube steel space frame.

Most Divans were powered by a 2,600 cc, inline-four Continental engine capable of producing 63 hp.

Others, including both the D-1 "Baby" and D-2 "Delta" prototypes, were fitted with 47 hp, four-cylinder Hercules industrial engines.

Claims of top speed for the Devan ranged from 100 mph (160 km/h) to 116 mph (187 km/h).

Gary Davis had a keen sense of showmanship and public relations, likely developed during years of selling used cars.

To take advantage of the booming American car market after World War II, Davis arranged for significant media coverage for his new car.

His efforts garnered features in prestigious magazines such as Business Week, Life, and Parade, as well as a newsreel and a popular syndicated television crime drama, The Cases of Eddie Drake.

At a promotional event, Davis seated four American Airlines stewardesses together on the car's single bench seat to demonstrate its ability to carry four adults.

Due to Gary Davis's attractive promise of a $1,000 car and the positive reception of the Dewan's public debut, sales increased at Davis dealerships.

This success enabled the company to raise funds for a promotional tour across the United States, where Davis enthusiastically promoted the Devan as "the best car of the future".

The futuristic design of the Devan mesmerized the show-goers, featuring spaceship-like styling, pop-up headlights, built-in hydraulic jack, impressive fuel efficiency and high top speed.

Many saw it as the embodiment of future automotive technology, as the advertising material had promised.

A factory was set up in a large hangar at Van Nuys Airport, staffed and equipped for production.

However, transforming a prototype into a mass-produced car is a huge challenge, and the Dewan project was no exception.

Investors who had paid for the dealership became more frustrated as the deadline approached and they could not find any cars to sell.

Some even traveled to the Van Nuys facility to see conditions for themselves.

With the financial situation deteriorating, Gary Davis faced lawsuits from both investors and disgruntled workers who were not being paid.

Unable to repay the loan, he was convicted of fraud and sentenced to manual labour.

Davis maintained his innocence to the end, and many believe that his actions were due to inexperience in car manufacturing, and not malicious intent.

Remarkably, 12 of the 13 Diwans built (including the prototype) have survived. Unfortunately one was destroyed in the UK due to customs regulations.

Today, these unique vehicles reside in museums, private collections, and some are even unrestored. Their situations vary greatly, reflecting their fascinating and troubled histories.

No comments:

Powered by Blogger.