Monday, October 30, 2017

Post- World War 2 Davis Three-Wheeler

In the USA, it seems that in every decade since 1940 somebody starts an automobile making company.  This was despite the presence of three large, strongly-established manufacturers plus some lesser firms for a while and eventually strong foreign competition.

The years immediately after the end of World War 2 witnessed a small surge of new companies hoping to successfully break into the car market.  The most successful was Kaiser-Frazer, which hung on for nearly ten years.  Perhaps the most famous failure was Tucker.

Aside from temporarily successful Kaiser-Frazer, all the other entires I can think of promoted unconventional designs based on idealistic concepts that had been considered and rejected by the mainstream firms, at least for the American market.  The startup companies that actually built a few examples were able to attract some financing, often in the form of selling dealership franchises.  In addition to essential uncertainties, the immediate postwar economic future was especially hard to predict, making such financing perhaps more risky than usual.  On the one hand, many knowledgeable people expected a renewal of the 1930s Great Depression, or at least a strong recession.  Others knew that wartime restriction of car production combined with many potential customers with saving of wartime earnings might result in strong demand for cars regardless of overall economic conditions.  As it happened, there indeed was strong demand while a recession held off until 1949.

The car featured in this post is the Davis, a three-wheeled vehicle of which 13 examples were made over 1947-49.  Its Wikipedia entry is here.  As the entry mentions, all sorts of claims were made of the car having to do with performance.  But from a styling standpoint, the most relevant claim was that it could hold four people on its single bench-type seat.  Several publicity photos were taken to demonstrate this, but the people posing were probably on the small side and were definitely crammed in.  In practice, the Davis could accommodate three people, but the four-passenger claim was probably made as an excuse for the car having only one seat instead of conventional front and back seats: that is, it could hold just as many people as small regular sedans and coupes.

Below are some publicity materials for the Davis along with three photos I took of one of the 12 surviving Davis cars, this a restored one in the Petersen automobile museum in Los Angeles.


Cover of publicity material.

A publicity photo illustrating its supposed capacity for seating four people.  There also are four women shown in the Davis in the first image above.

A Davis posed by a T-33 Air Force trainer jet, perhaps the prototype, as it lacks a "buzz number" on the front side.  Viewers were expected to notice the similarity of nose shapes.

Here is a Davis being loaded on an Eastern Airlines DC-4 cargo plane.

Davis styling was simple, functional, and therefore somewhat dull.  The shape of the front was dictated by the fact that there was only one wheel there.  Absent is a radiator grille.  The air inlet was small and located below the bumper (it can be seen in the previous photo).

Simple rear styling was slightly relieved (and improved) by the crease running down the center.  Rear wheel spats are simple rectangular panels.

The interior was also Spartan, but in line with the Davis' intended low price point.

No comments: