Time Capsule on Wheels: Exploring the Unique Design of the 1948 Davis Divan

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The Davis Divan, a three-wheeled convertible, was manufactured by the Davis Motorcar Company from 1947 to 1949. Conceived by used-car salesman Glen Gordon “Gary” Davis, it drew inspiration from “The Californian,” a custom three-wheeled roadster crafted by Frank Kurtis for Southern Californian millionaire and racer Joel Thorne.

 

 

In 1947, Davis produced two prototypes and initiated an extensive promotional campaign for the car. This campaign featured numerous magazine features, a grand public unveiling at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, and a cross-country promotional tour.

 

 

Despite fervent efforts by employees at the Van Nuys factory to produce Divans, the model never entered mass production. Although the Davis Motorcar Company garnered $1.2 million by selling 350 dealerships, it failed to deliver cars to dealers or promptly compensate employees. Consequently, legal actions were taken by both dealers and employees, leading to the company’s assets being liquidated to settle back taxes. Gary Davis himself was later convicted of fraud and grand theft, receiving a two-year sentence at a “work farm” labor camp.

 

 

Only 13 Divans, including the two prototypes, were ever manufactured, with 12 still in existence today.

 

1948 Davis Divan Gabor Mayer ©2022 Courtesy of RM Sotheby's

1948 Davis Divan Gabor Mayer ©2022 Courtesy of RM Sotheby's

1948 Davis Divan Gabor Mayer ©2022 Courtesy of RM Sotheby's

1948 Davis Divan Gabor Mayer ©2022 Courtesy of RM Sotheby's

 

1948 Davis Divan Gabor Mayer ©2022 Courtesy of RM Sotheby's

1948 Davis Divan Gabor Mayer ©2022 Courtesy of RM Sotheby's

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