Arizona | Lot 123
1959 Devin C
$70,000 - $90,000 USD | Offered Without Reserve
€60,000 - €80,000 EUR
£50,000 - £65,000 GBP
| Phoenix, Arizona
27 January 2022
- 12% of the hammer price up to and including $250,000
- 10% of the hammer price in excess of $250,000
- The first of 21 known examples built; used in period by the Granatelli brothers for supercharger testing at the Bonneville Salt Flats
- Established sports-car records at California drag strips in late 1961; raced at the 1961 Los Angeles Times-Mirror Grand Prix at Riverside against legendary drivers
- Comprehensively restored by the most recent owner from 2013 to 2017 and displayed at a Devin C reunion at the 2017 Quail Motorsports Gathering
- Featured in period issues of Sports Car Graphic magazine; subject of a modern feature article in Automobile magazine
- Documented with period magazines, period racing photos and program copies, and numerous restoration invoices and parts receipts
Postwar American motoring lore is famous for independent entrepreneurs who bucked the system while building cars that put Detroit’s Big Three to shame, but few of them stack up to Southern California’s Bill Devin, whose fiberglass bodied sports cars won two SCCA titles and numerous races. An experienced driver who sought to emulate the beautiful speed machines emerging from Europe, Devin began his production career in the mid-1950s with a successful imitation of the Dyna-Panhard before segueing to his celebrated Devin SS, a V-8 powered racer with Scaglietti-influenced coachwork.
Devin achieved outstanding finish and durability in his body shells by utilizing a comparatively time-consuming fiberglass technique, although by 1959 he endeavored to develop a more inexpensive model. This effort culminated in the rear-engine Devin D, which integrated components from a Volkswagen or Porsche. But Porsche was loathe to sell engines to a builder that was routinely beating them on the track, so Devin switched to Chevy’s flat-six Corvair engine, resulting in the Devin C of late 1961.
It is important to note that while Bill Devin’s fame grew largely through the sale of his fiberglass bodies, which generally featured in homespun “kit car” applications, the cars he built in their entirety at his Southern California “factory” were not only of a far higher quality—they were also far rarer. The car featured here is a true Bill Devin-built automobile.
According to the research of Devin C historian John Priddy, chassis no. DC1-001-2 was the first example completed, despite being the second in numerical sequence. The car was tested for the October 1961 issue of Sports Car Graphic magazine before being borrowed by Andy and Vince Granatelli for high-speed supercharger testing at the Bonneville Salt Flats, which was detailed in the January 1962 issue of SCG. The Granatellis also ran the supercharged car at various drag strips, scaring away the competition with a sports-car record 12.44-second quarter-mile run at 109.75 mph.
A few weeks later, with the supercharger removed, the Devin C was entered by its first owner (the well-known dealer Hollywood Sports Cars) at the LA Times-Mirror Grand Prix at Riverside in October 1961. Dealership employee Pete Woods battled hall-of-fame racing giants like Stirling Moss, Jim Hall, Dan Gurney, Roger Penske, Jack Brabham, Bruce McLaren, Ken Miles, Walt Hansgen, George Follmer, and Augie Pabst during a 10-lap introductory qualifying race, before a seized engine prevented the car from running the main event.
The Devin passed through a handful of owners over the ensuing 30 years before being purchased in March 1993 by the Phoenix-based Corvair specialist Tom Schrum, who commenced a full restoration. Bodywork specialist John Lee completely refurbished the coachwork to stunning effect before Schrum became ill, forcing a sale of the car in early 2012.
The Devin was then acquired by the late Bud Bourassa, a respected collector from Scottsdale, Arizona, who set out to complete the restoration. While keeping the Devin body as original as possible, Bourassa elected to conduct a small number of minor modifications, including a conversion to disc brakes, installation of a wraparound windscreen, covered headlamps, different taillights and gearshift, and a MOPAR gas cap. A later, naturally aspirated Corvair high-performance motor was sourced and rebuilt to racing specifications with forged pistons and Weber 40 IDA carburetors, combining to reportedly develop as much as 180 horsepower.
The Devin was then exhibited at a handful of prestigious events, including the 2014 Desert Concorso in Palm Desert, California and the 2015 Arizona Concours d’Elegance in Phoenix, before attending a Devin C reunion staged at the 2017 Quail Motorsports Gathering. The beautifully restored car was also the subject of a feature article in the August 2017 issue of Automobile magazine.
Although Bill Devin did not record a consistent build log, John Priddy maintains that as few as 21 Devin C examples were built, of which 19 are known to still exist today. Notable for being an early production Bill Devin-built C with a Devin body and proprietary round-tubing frame (as opposed to being one of the Devin-bodied kit cars), as well as use by the Granatelli brothers and period racing history against some of the most legendary drivers of its day, this finely restored roadster is surely one of the most desirable examples of Bill Devin’s capable Corvair-powered sports-racer. A beacon within the Devin community that is by all accounts astoundingly enjoyable to drive, it would distinguish any gathering of American fiberglass specials or make a unique potential entrant to vintage racing events, serving as a tribute to the genius of the legendary Bill Devin.