Davis Divan 1947

The story of this arresting-looking three-wheeler with its four-abreast seating begins in 1938, when a similar one-off car was commissioned by wealthy American playboy Joel Thorne. He regularly cruised the streets of Los Angeles in his three-wheeled wonder “Californian.”

Davis Divan 1947
Davis Divan 1947

Davis Divan 1947

  • YEAR REVEALED  1947
  • PLACE OF ORIGIN  Van Nuys, California
  • HISTORICAL STATUS  production car
  • ENGINE  four-cylinder, 159ci 2, (600cc)
  • MAXIMUM POWER  63bhp
  • LAYOUT front-mounted engine driving the rear wheels
  • BODYWORK  two-door four-seater coupé
  • TOP SPEED  65mph (105kph) (estimated)
  • NUMBER BUILT  13

One man who was particularly taken with it was car salesman Glenn Gordon “Gary” Davis. Somehow, Davis managed to acquire the car, which had inspired him to try and sell a version to American motorists. Treating the Californian as his rolling billboard and prototype, Davis toured the nation promoting his Davis Motor Car Company. Having acquired a factory in Van Nuys, and with the Californian beginning to look rather worn, Davis hired some engineers to help him build a production prototype.

Three experimental cars later, the specification of the Davis Divan was settled. It now included a 159ci (2,600cc) Hercules engine and a three-speed Borg Warner gearbox. The hardtop was removable and headlights were concealed behind flaps. Although eye-catching, only a few were test-built before Davis’s exasperated staff sued him for unpaid wages.

Despite plans for making 50 cars daily and new designs for a three-wheeled military vehicle, the plant was shut in mid-1948. Davis was jailed for two years for defrauding investors; after he served his sentence in 1953, he became involved in making bumper cars. Whether or not Gary Davis was a conman, he certainly created a car like nothing else on the road.

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