The Devin D Porsche Special was a creation of Bill Devin, an American racing driver and engineer with a life story so fascinating you’ll wonder why he isn’t significantly more well-known.
The Story of Bill Devin
Bill was born in Oklahoma in 1915 to a father who was an automobile mechanic and would later become a Chevrolet dealer. The first car created by Bill was a powered by the engine from a gasoline washing machine, with a body crafted by hammering a metal sign into a vaguely curved shape. He trained early in his life as a gas welder, and quickly found himself inundated with work – he was the only welder in his town and was kept busy repairing farm machinery, cars, motorcycles, and oil rigs.
Once America ramped up production for WWII Bill went to work for the Douglas Aircraft Company, quickly getting promoted up the ranks to Crew Chief on the flight line for the Douglas A-20 Havoc light bomber. Once America joined the war Bill enlisted with the Navy and was assigned as a motor mechanic for landing craft – he served for almost 3 years and the machines he kept running performed a vital function in winning the war.
Once the war drew to an end in 1945 Devin got a bank loan and started a Chrysler-Plymouth dealership in Iowa, following in his father’s footsteps. In 1949 his life-long fascination with the idea of modifying and racing cars finally came to fruition – and he began modifying a brand-new Crosley Hotshot.
The Hotshot was a small car with an inline-4, SOHC, 750cc cast-iron engine. Devin fitted a hot cam ground by Clay Smith and made a few tweaks to boost power as much as possible over stock. The first race outing was an amateur event at Buchannan Field California, which he won in his first attempt as a racing driver, he placed 5th later that day in the main race.
Bill’s career in motor racing was just getting started, before long he was partnered with Phil Hill, and he would become friends with Luigi Chinetti – even flying to Italy with him to buy a Ferrari 250MM for a stab at Le Mans. Sadly the Ferrari wasn’t ready in time, so he picked up a couple of other Ferraris and flew back to the USA.
Founding Devin Enterprises
In 1954 Bill fulfilled a lifelong dream and formed his own car company – Devin Enterprises. Fibreglass was still a relatively new technology at the time, and Bill was drawn to it for its ease of use and light weight.
Devin designed and built his own chassis, and created a fibreglass mould based on a Deutsch-Bonnet he had acquired in trade. The small, aerodynamic, and low-slung body would be an influence on all of the designs to roll out of the Devin factory.
Devin Enterprises quickly became one of the leading builders of fibreglass bodies for cars, and for a time they were the leading manufacturer in the world. He had modified Devin bodies that could fit 27 different chassis – and he began to expand the business to include custom built chassis and other accessories. A number of interesting Devin specials would be built over the years including the Ak Miller Specials, the Dean Moon “Moonbeam” Special, the The Echidnas, the Clair Reuter Bandini Devin Crosley, and the Richard Boone Devin-Porsche.
The Devin Super Sport
Before long Bill realised he needed to create an all-new production-ready design, so he set to work on the Devin Super Sport. He chose the Chevrolet small block V8 to power the new car, and it proved to be a popular albeit unusual alternative to the comparable sports cars pouring out of Europe.
The Devin D
The Devin D is the most famous of the cars built by Bill and his team. It was cheaper than the Devin SS, and could be powered by either a Volkswagen or Porsche horizontally-opposed 4-cylinder engine. Of course to collectors and racers, the Porsche-powered variant has always been the favourite, and serving examples have been creeping up in value over recent years.
The Devin C
After Chevrolet released their unusual Corvair with its rear-mounted 6-cylinder boxer engine, Bill was quick to capitalise on it, and released a modified version of the Devin D that could fit the new motor. Although more powerful, it did have more weight out the back which had a noticeable impact on handling. The Devin C would later be evolved into the Devin GT – a hardtop coupe that was a little more upmarket, but sold in relatively limited numbers.
The Devin D Porsche Special Shown Here
This particular 1959 Devin D Porsche Special is powered by a 90 bhp, 1582cc, Type 616/7 4-cylinder Porsche 356 B engine mated to a 4-speed transmission. It has VW-derived independent suspension front and back, and a drum brake on each wheel.
Although much of the history of this car has been lost to time, it is known that it belonged to Bill Devin personally and that he was in the process of personally restoring it. Sadly Bill was never able to finish it, but a new body was built utilising the original body moulds before it was sold by his estate to a collector in Italy in 2003, and then acquired by its current owner in 2014.
If you’d like to read more about the car or register to bid you can click here to visit the listing, it’s estimated to be worth between $70,000 and $90,000 USD, and it will sell on the 11th of March with RM Sotheby’s.
Photo Credits: Remi Dargegen ©2017 Courtesy of RM Sotheby’s