Thursday, September 3, 2009

The Devin TR - a Fifties American special with British ingredients

Few people know what a Devin is, and maybe there's no such thing as a Devin anyway. But what is clear is that great cars have been built under this name and are still heavily enjoyed today.

The Man behind the cars
Bill Devin was born in Rocky, Oklahoma in 1915. Acording to Henry Manney he is "The Enzo Ferrari of Okie Flats." Bill’s father had a car repair garage and then a Chevrolet agency and the curious Bill was into cars long before his father put him to work.
Bill Devin began building cars early in his life, but he was also a passioned racing driver.

Building American cars as good as the Europeans
In 1954 Devin decided that he could build cars just as well as anybody else, especially the Europeans. He cleaned out a chicken house and got it ready to make what soon would be called Devin-Panhards. Fiberglass construction was just becoming known in the early Fifties, but Devin quickly learned about the new art by building fiberglass bodies for the Panhards. It was the first Devin fiberglass body.
Another milestone in Devin's career was the first use of a belt driven OHC engine. But, typical of Bill's disdain for paperwork and the bureaucracy, he never patented his idea which has since been used by every auto manufacturer.
The next chapter in Bill Devin's life is perhaps the one for which he is best known - the attractive, Ferrari Monza-like Devin bodies which were ultimately available in 27 variations to fit cars ranging from a tiny Crosley Hot Shot to a TR3 to a hefty Allard. Devin was easily the largest producer of fiberglass bodies in the late Fifties and early Sixties in a very competitive business. He had dealers in 50 states and shipped bodies to nearly all the countries of Europe, all through Central and South America and even South Africa.
Devin's competitors and contemporaries were companies such as Byers, Almquist, Alken, La Dawri, Microbond, Fiberfab, Atlas, Kellison, Allied, Conquest, Victress and Microplas and most have been forgotten in time, but the name Devin still features prominently as Devin held his own with the right mix of low cost and quality plus the amazing range of sizes. Devin bodies were always praised for being so smooth that they didn't even look like fiberglass and the finish work was almost always superior to his competitors.
Contrary to what many have said, Bill Devin did not set out to build a Corvette beater or for that matter a racer when he began to build the SS in 1957. The Devin SS became a famous car, but financially it wasn’t all that successful.
Many “American Specials” were built utilizing Devin bodies, the Ryan Devin Special for example or Ak Miller’s Devin Specials and the Pink Elephants. Pink Elephant IV was actually a Devin-Triumph.
Many of the Devin bodied cars were successful in American racing. Between 1956 and 1970 they were entered throughout the States and made quite an impression.
It is assumed that less then 100 cars have survived until today, approximately 5 or 6 Triumph based Devins are active in vintage racing today and always admired by the spectators.

The Devin-Triumph / Devin TR
The Devin TR on the picture was built using a Triumph TR 3 chassis and an “F” Devin body. It’s a true race car. The early history isn't fully known, but it's assumed that the car was raced from the beginning.
Race preparation includes a 2188 cc Triumph 4 cylinder motor with a flowed head and approximately 140 HP, 3.9:1 welded diff., 16 row oil cooler, Accusump pre-oiling system, on-board fire system, dual fuel pumps, fuel cell, roll bar, 15" Dunlop wire wheels, and modified TR suspension to fit the low slung body as well as disc brakes on the front and rear axle. The car is easy to drive and remarkably fast. The race history includes Sebring, Road of America, Ohio, Arosa, Gaisberg and other events.


John L said...

I've been gathering photos of Devins for a while now, mainly from race meetings in California, to do a blog post on the similarity of specialist sports car makers in America to the likes of Nat Buchanan and Ken Morrison in Australia. All of this inspired by your excellent example, the Devin TR. Many years ago I raced a TR2 and I just love those Triumph engines which were also in Swallow Dorettis, Morgan Plus 4s and Ferguson tractors.

Kreg said...

I would appreciate it, if you could share some Devin pictures with me. I would like to post them on my website:
It's also a Devin Registry.