MOORE ABOUT THE DAVIS
After perusing the internet for Davis-related information, Kim Moore contacted the Registry with some great information and color photos—all of which help to answer some questions that have especially interested Davis-o-philes for years.
Kim is the granddaughter of Lee William Jenks, better known as former Road & Track magazine editor Bill Jenks. She was raised by her grandparents in Newport Beach, Ca, R&T’s home base. She grew up hearing about the Davis; saw a snapshot or two, as well as drawings done by her grandfather. Seems he was a car designer in his earlier years and mentioned he designed the Californian, predecessor to the Davis, and the Davis Divan sedan too.
Your Director has seen photos of illustrator Rex Burnett drawing an “X-ray” or cut-away drawing of the Davis back in the day, and assumed Burnett was somehow involved in the design of the Davis. Burnett was known for his cut-away illustrations appearing for years in Hot Rod magazine. But nobody really knew the genesis of the Davis design. In many cases automobile design is sort of a catch-all—many people get involved and it becomes a child of many parents, or a bastard if it’s an Edsel or more recently, a Pontiac Aztec.
So Kim’s information, color photos and drawings to back up Jenks’ claim, lay the very cool design of the Davis at his feet, which we are glad to finally know. Kim sent a framed drawing she has of the Californian, and a Photoplay magazine article that her father illustrated called “Cars for Stars” where he created a hypothetical car design for certain actors of the late-1930s. Another interesting Davis artifact, and one no Davis historian was aware existed, is a cool charm bracelet her grandfather passed down to her mother with two gold Davis cars and the Davis shield.
From the famous December 8, 1947 Life magazine photos we see a dapper Bill Jenks with bow tie sitting next to driver Gary Davis himself. Kim has supplied additional black & white photos from that day. Note the electrical cord along the side of the Davis to light the interior for photography purposes.
Kim goes on to say that her grandmother and grandfather went to live with her in Oregon in 1995, and that Jenks died a year later in 1996. She says she misses him very much and wants to see his photos added to the site for all to enjoy. No problem!
We will be posting all of the photos she has graciously sent the Registry so far in a special section of the Registry Photo Gallery elsewhere in this site, with the understanding that once more surface—which she assures us she’ll find in her crowded attic, we will add those too. Thank you, Kim, and thanks Bill Jenks!
DAVIS MILITARY 494X1
I would have loved to see the reaction of former Davis Registry Director Tom Wilson the day those snapshots of the heretofore undiscovered military Davis popped up on his computer. At that moment the Davis Registry worked!
When Tom started the Registry one of his main goals was to help in locating any undiscovered Davis vehicles, which is why a reward has always been part of the Registry. Though records indicated that two military Davis vehicles were built, the two existing had serial numbers 494X2 and 494X3, suggesting that there might have been a 494X1 at one time. This combined with the clipping in the Davis Registry archives from an old issue of Motor Trend magazine that a Davis franchisee in Macon, Georgia, had a military Davis and was using it as a truck made it only a matter of time before it would pop up—hopefully.
Once Tom confirmed that the Davis was real and living in a Macon, Georgia garage, he wasted little time in purchasing the restorable 3-wheeler. He also didn’t forget to pay the owner the $200 Davis Registry reward from the treasury.
This is Davis military 494X1—actually known as 494X, and is one of two sent to Aberdeen, Maryland, for testing by the Defense Department. As a last ditch attempt to get funding and keep his company from failing, Gary Davis and a skeleton crew put together three Davis model 494 military cars.
It has been assumed that Davis built two 494s, both of which were sent to Aberdeen. The Davis Registry sells DVDs of some of the proving grounds testing shot by the military which is available elsewhere on the website. Tom’s 494 was involved in a roll-over at the test track, but rumors suggest that the accident occurred due to driver carelessness or recklessness and not during actual testing. But two 494’s were sent and two exist so it always tied together.
What actually happened was that at least three 494’s were built with one kept back by Gary Davis. The one sent to Aberdeen that remained intact was ultimately sent back to Davis, though by that time the company was closed. 494X3 was used by Gary Davis in Palm Springs until his death in 1973, then was auctioned and purchased by Bill Anderson’s Ponderosa Ranch. From there it was sold to the current owner living in Reno, Nevada.
Davis 494X2 was stored outside for years owned by Davis Rocky Mountain Region Distributor Blaine Evans, and eventually inherited by Skip Evans, before being sold to the current owner in Colorado.
By 2005 Tom Wilson put together a small consortium of friends to buy and restore Davis 494X1, with restoration commencing the following year. Eventually Tom and Bruce Feuerstein became co-owners. Besides the typical rust found in most 60-year old cars, numerous portions of the car had to be created as parts were missing or damaged beyond restoration from the proving grounds accident. Both the hood and tailgate were fabricated by Lynn Blank, Sumter, Michigan, as was the afterdeck. All of the windshield framing and bracketry was fabricated by Wilson from factory photos. The rear seat frame and canvas top frame were also built from scratch by Wilson, with the seat covers created from military material supplied by Beachwood Canvas in New Jersey, who also supplied the military-styled rear-view mirror, windshield wiper, footman’s loops, windshield clamps and passenger safety straps.
Tom did the majority of the restoration himself, whose progress can be viewed through the Davis Registry link found in the website listings under “The Davis Military Company.” The restoration was completed in 2008. Tom also restored Davis number 6, currently owned by the Lane Motor Museum in Tennessee, and number 13 which he still owns.
Davis 494X1 helps to hold the possibility that more Davis cars could be out there undiscovered, while helping to piece together the history of Gary Davis’ military Davis three-wheeler.
TELEVISION DISCOVERS DAVIS!
Chasing Classic Cars is a show on the Discovery channel about, well, chasing classic cars. Wayne Carini is the host, and also new owner of Davis #9, which he pursues and purchases in episode #7. Check your local listings for the Discovery HD channel—they often repeat this show, and see a Davis for yourself right in your own living room. The Registry will follow up on this with more about Wayne’s quest and fascination with the Davis car.
Ever wonder what the Davis factory might have been like? So did Genevieve Shapiro, FKA: Genevieve Wilson. If the last name sounds familiar, it’s because our former Director Tom Wilson has talent in the family—in this case his granddaughter. Genevieve took it upon herself to envision the Davis factory as only she could, and now you can own a copy. Visit her website at www.genevievecartoons.com for info on obtaining a Davis factory poster to add some color to your garage or style to your living room. Help spread the Davis word and put some cha-cha in a struggling artist’s pocket!