MYSTERIOUS DAVIS ON EBAY
This photo recently ran on eBay and your Davis Director would like to know who or where "Duco Bills" is and any other info anyone might have on this picture. We have narrowed the car down to possibly being Davis #8-#13 or possibly a Davis numbered after #13. Can anyone help us out on this interesting picture?.
The "Californian", built by racing pioneer Frank Kurtis, was the basis for the Davis design. Soon after Davis prototypes starting popping out of the Van Nuys facility the Californian seemed to disappear. Some think it was scavenged to produce one or more of the first prototypes, but there don’t appear to be adapted components on either the first or any of the other prototypes extant today. So Jeff and Susan Lane of Lane Motor Museum (www.lanemotormuseum.org), which houses the Davis archives, have been searching for its whereabouts. A couple of leads have been dead ends, so they are looking for any information out there that might lead them to the whereabouts of the Californian, or definitive proof of its demise. Any info can be sent either directly to the Lanes, or to me and I’ll forward the info to them.
FREE DAVIS RIDES THIS SUMMER
Speaking of the Lane Motor Museum, they are planning a special event day this summer featuring 3-wheeled vehicles, and will be giving guests rides in the museum’s own Davis—car #6. This is your opportunity of a lifetime to experience the joy, the thrill, the ecstasy—all of this and more, of riding in a Davis Divan Sedan! We’ll update you on the date, or visit their cool website at www.lanemotormuseum.org.
PINHEADS LOVE THE DAVIS!
Bill Griffith’s Zippy The Pinhead comic strip included an entire panel featuring a Davis which ran in syndication on 9/1/06. We couldn’t believe a pinhead was hip to the Davis! See, even pinheads know they’re cool! Check out more of Zippy’s adventures at www.zippythepinhead.com. Signed prints are available at Zippy’s site. And thanks to Bill for helping to spread the word about the coolest 3-wheeler on the planet!
DAVIS #14 FOUND AT NORTH POLE!
We received this great Christmas card from the Petersen Museum in Los Angeles featuring what your director is sure could be Davis #14! The museum’s Davis (#4) is blue, and since Bill Miller’s #2 is a darker red and the art by Mitch Braiman clearly shows this Davis as bright red, we must assume that Santa owns a here-to-for undiscovered Davis. Now that we have cleared this up, if Santa will send us a picture, we’ll follow through on our Registry pledge to send him $200 for info leading to the discovery of other Davis vehicles. This should help buy a fair amount of carrots for his reindeer. We’ll keep you posted.
MORE "DAVIS IN THE NEWS" NEWS
The October 2006 Collectible Automobile magazine featured an extensive 9 page article on the Davis vehicle by your director. Back issues can be purchased by calling toll free 1-800-871-2022. Thanks to Editor John Biel for his support and great direction. I’m going to try and get this article posted on our web site at a later date with CA’s permission. Most of the enthusiast publications have run articles on the Davis story in the last few years which attests to the continuing interest in all things Davis.
FILLING IN THE MISSING PIECES
We received a great letter from Jim Foy of Torrance, CA, who was a caretaker of sorts for some Davis cars in the early 1950s. Here is his letter:
In 1950, at the age of 15, I began working at Van Nuys Airport as a "line boy" in exchange for flying lessons. On the east side of the airport was what had been the Davis factory -- in fact, there was still a sign/billboard evident, so I was aware of the car, but only vaguely. This changed in 1953-54.
My mother, Lauretta Beaty Foy, had been a WASP (Woman’s Army Service Pilot) during WWII. In her training class of 1943-44 at Sweetwater, Texas, was another pilot named Peggy Calhoun, the wife of Everett "Cal" Calhoun, and they kept in touch over the years. Cal was the Davis dealer/distributor who initiated a lawsuit against Davis, which he eventually “won”. As partial compensation he was awarded seven Davis automobiles, which had been sitting on a Sheriff’s lot in Long Beach for several years.
The Calhoun’s stopped by to see us at our house in Van Nuys sometime in early 1953 or ’54. Cal, I believe, worked for the Stanford Research Institute in Palo Alto, and was going overseas for a year. Of the seven Davis cars he had been awarded, he had fully restored two, cannibalizing parts from some of the others, and was trying to figure out what to do with the restored cars while he was away. By the end of the visit it had been decided that we would keep the two cars for him in absence. My duties were to keep them drivable, and if I managed to run across a buyer, I would get a commission. At first, I regarded this arrangement as something of an imposition—I was 19, attending college, only home on weekends, working weekends and during the summer. Plus, I was more interested in airplanes and girls than I was cars. But I agreed, and the cars were delivered in 1953 or ’54 (I have indications for both years so I can’t be certain).
After more than 50 years here are some of my remembrances:
What I will arbitrarily call Davis #1 (I have no idea of serial numbers) was cream with a chocolate brown top. It had what we referred to as a Willys Jeep engine.
Davis #2 was a light "sea foam" green, very similar if not identical to Tom Wilson’s Davis #13. The top, however, was dark green, and the upholstery was a light green naugahyde matching the exterior. But the big difference was that it had a Ford V8-60 engine. As a result, compared to the cream car, it was a real performer, so of course this was the one I much preferred to drive. (Director’s note: the only Davis with a V8-60 is Lee Nicholls’ car #9, so this is probably the green car. It begs the question was the engine installed at the factory, as opposed to being a later change as has been suspected through the years?)
Both cars were licensed as motorcycles, I suppose on the theory that if it didn’t have four wheels it wasn’t an automobile.
The Davis created a sensation wherever I drove it. Even though the Davis plant had been only a few miles from my home, very few people had actually seen one "in the flesh", let alone driving around. At the time I was told there were only 9 built—Cal had seven, of which I had the only two running. I remember hearing that the Davis family had one and that there was another owned by an advertising or perfume company driving around San Francisco. At first all of the attention was embarrassing, but after a while I began to enjoy it.
In the early 1950s the San Fernando Valley was the Mecca for customizing and hot rodding and the “big thing” was to cruise Van Nuys Blvd., ending up at Bob’s Big Boy Drive-in. I took a date there in the Davis one evening and as all the drive-in spots were filled I parked on the street and we went inside. When we came out there were literally several hundred people surrounding the car.
As noted the cars were very maneuverable and surprisingly stable. With their wide stance and low center of gravity, 360 degree turns were easily done almost within the car’s length. I had the "hot" Davis outside my college dorm showing it to some friends when one of my Air Force ROTC instructors, a Major, came by. I “let” him drive it and we were soon doing very rapid turns and circles. He was so enthused about the car he wanted to buy it, but as he was facing reassignment—probably overseas, practicality won out. I don’t think I quite believe the 55mph reversal quoted by Davis, but it could run rings around any of its contemporaries.
As for speed, I don’t believe I ever had the Willys-engine Davis above 55mph, primarily because I never drove it very far out of the city. But several times a friend and I went to the beach in the green one, with the top off, and I recall over 70mph without strain. I had only one problem with either car, and this might help identify the green chassis. I was showing the car to someone and providentially we noticed a crack in the steering linkage. I carefully drove it to a shop in Van Nuys where the crack was welded. So if one of the arms or “knuckles” has a weld where there wouldn’t normally be one, that’s the green Davis with the Ford engine.
Cal came back within the year and took the cars home with him. I hadn’t sold either car (I wasn’t really expected to), but did give him a number of leads. He seemed happy with the care I’d given the cars, and I’d had more fun with them than I had expected. But with the exception of a few conversations over the years I had pretty much forgotten about the cars until the Hemming’s Motor News article led me to the Davis Registry.
Thanks Jim for the great remembrances. One of the main reasons for setting up the Davis Registry is getting great info just like this window in time from Jim. Another reason is the minutia of serial numbers and production figures, which has been a puzzle Tom Wilson has tackled ad nauseam (see “How Many Davis Were Built?” elsewhere on the Davis Registry site). The point being if Jim is correct about the 5 Davis sedans that were “non-op” then where did they end up, and could there be a few more Divan Sedans left to discover out there? I’ll be contacting Jim for photos and other information he may have that could lead to the whereabouts of more Davis cars tucked away, or at the very least a few more great remembrances.
DAVIS REGISTRY NEWS
DAVIS WEB SITE CHANGES
David Suarez and I are slowly making changes to the site which we hope will fulfill your wildest Davis website desires. A new Registry section has been added that will link you directly to the site that Registry Treasurer Tom Wilson regularly updates on the restoration of Davis Military #1 that both he and Bruce Feuerstein co-own. It is not very often that a Davis is restored, let alone documented to the extent that our former director has taken. Check out the latest on Davis Military 494X1!
Another change will be the archiving of past Davis site Updates starting with the last one completed in 2006. In this way any information that is contained in the older Updates will be available for the Davis-info challenged.
DINKY DAVIS AVAILABLE SOON
Besides the 1/18th scale Davis model that is being manufactured now and will soon be available, we also did some test shots of a "dinky" Davis version of our Registry logo car. These guys will also be available soon -- we’ll update the Registry web site once we get a batch of them in.
We’re blowing out our VHS versions of the original hour-long Davis infomercial and reducing the price of the DVD versions. VHS are $14 postage included. DVD’s are $22 postage included. There are only a few of each left so unless there is an unusual surge in demand this will be it for the great color video documenting the manufacturing and promotion of the Davis Divan Sedan. Hurry while they last!
We also have a few of our old Davis Registry T-shirts originally done in 2001. As I have the art for new shirts and just need to do some of the finishing touches on them before they are available (I promise this year!) we’re blowing out the remaining old shirts. Contact Treasurer Tom Wilson at email@example.com for info and blow-out prices.
SOME DOWN, SOME UP
Though we’re reducing the prices of our remaining videos and T-shirts, we have original Davis factory literature that has gone up in price. Check with Tom at firstname.lastname@example.org for the latest prices on the three pieces of literature we still stock: "Davis Three Wheel Engineering Triumph" 8.5X11 2-color folder, "Davis 3-Wheel Divan Sedan" 8.5X11 single sheet card stock, and "Divan Sedan" 8.5X11 single sheet, single fold piece. They are available in different conditions and correspondingly priced -- they are rare and highly collectible, so get yours while they last!
DAVIS STATIONARY COMING SOON
The Lane Museum has had original Davis stationary beautifully reproduced, which we are discussing becoming available as a Registry fund raiser. Those not wishing to wait for the Registry Director to get around to putting this together (which is understandable) may contact Jeff or Susan Lane at the Lane Museum to see if you can shake some of this cool stationary loose before it is made available here on the Registry site. These are exact, quality reproductions.