From The Vault | The 1948 Davis Divan

Each week of November, “From The Vault” will highlight a signature vehicle in the acclaimed collection of the Petersen Automotive Museum. Having undergone a 13-month renovation, the museum will re-open to the public December 7, 2015. Leslie Kendall, author of this series, is the museum’s chief curator.

While many automobiles are interesting to enthusiasts because they differ in subtle but desirable ways from thousands of other similar vehicles, others are noteworthy for their highly individual appearance resulting from their designers’ complete disregard for prevailing design and engineering trends. With their aircraft-inspired styling, aluminum body construction, and three-wheel configuration, the cars built by Glen Gary Davis fall squarely into the latter category.

Like Preston Tucker and dozens of other would-be manufacturers during the late 1940s, used car dealer Gary Davis launched an automobile manufacturing enterprise during the strongest sellers market the automotive industry had ever seen. Derived from a prewar design by legendary racecar builder Frank Kurtis, the Davis Divan was touted as the car of the future. Its single front wheel enabled it to make incredibly tight turns and its bullet-like shape was said to penetrate the air with great efficiency.

Although sources report that 17 Davis vehicles were built before production was halted, just 13 passenger cars and two “jeeps” have been accounted for. Bearing serial number 482E49, the Petersen Automotive Museum’s 1948 Davis is the fourth passenger car built and one of very few with a continuous ownership history. Amazingly, it has never been disassembled or modified and retains its original 60-horsepower Hercules four-cylinder engine, Ford transmission, and removable hardtop. 

 All images courtesy of the Petersen Automotive Museum.