1955 Devin-VW Original

Devin f (3) Devin f (1) Devin f (2)


This historic one-off racer from the late 50’s features Devin’s first body, paired with a VW chassis and motor.

Being the first “Devin”, only stories from the original witnesses of this car can give you the full detail on how this fun and unique car came to be. Enjoy

From Ron Cummings, April 2016:

“What makes the car historic is that it was Devin’s first attempt at building a Devin bodied VW and that the story was covered by Sports Cars Illustrated in 1958.  When Rory told me he had a VW-Devin that he was going to strip for parts, I told him of a VW-Devin that I had seen (in 1955 ) at Bill Devin’s shop. The shop was in Lancaster California in those days. The car was probably a early 50’s vintage VW, of this I am not sure. It used a 295 Devin body rather than the much later Devin D body.  A two or three part series was written about the building of the car, including, if memory serves me, the shortening of the pan. The series was published in 1957 Sports Car Illustrated and later, Car and Driver magazine.   I mentioned that this car was the same that I had seen (in 1955). It was historic even though it was only raced in the LA area.

I have no photos of the car but I did see it on the roads around Lancaster. I remember I saw the completed car in April 1957 because I was in the Antelope Valley for a Triple R race sports car race, at Willow Springs, the weekend I first saw the completed Special run.

The problem is that to get performance from the 36 HP motor you will need to locate period piece hot rod parts. They are around but will take some research.

After reading the 1957 Sports Car Illustrated articles, Rory became convinced that his car was probably the same Devin Special.”


From Ralph Ricks, February 2011:

“Oh, boy, does this bring back memories..  Unlike today, that was my only car from 1960 to ’64, when I bought a ’54 Porsche coupe for Illinois winters.

Driving it?  It was like a skateboard – before they were invented.  Oversteer was the game.

1960 – The 1951 chassis had the original 25 HP (31 SAE) engine with 5.9:1 compression.  A piston separated one day, so I went to the VW dealer.  He had no 1131 cc pistons, but had a set of Mahle 7.5:1 pistons and rings he sold me for half the $40 list price.  Installed those, and what a difference!  It thus had more power than the common 1192 cc, 36 HP current engine with 6.6:1 compression.

1960 – Designed and made a soft top that hinged at the windshield, making a clamshell top, instead of gullwing.  Had it covered in TJ.  Made side curtains, too.

Jan. 1961 – drove the 2,000 miles from San Diego to Mexico City, where I enrolled in the Natl Univ of Mexico, School of Foreigners.  Enroute, I spun out on a mountain curve and put a break in the body aft of the rear wheel.  A concrete pillar I knocked over, buried just a few inches, may have saved me from going over the side.  I slowed down some after that.  Once in Mexico City, I had a ball with it.  I even met a local with his own Devin/VW.  I had two tall gringa girls aboard on a five hour trip to Acapulco, but I didn’t mind the crowding..  A fellow student (from Switzerland) and I drove to Veracruz for Holy Week, and somehow I either had a flat or just lost it on a curve on an extremely rough road, and we sailed off the left side over small boulders, across a creek, and ended up under a barbed wire fence.  There we were in the boonies 100 miles from a city, with a flat front tire and a bent rim, no spare, and the lower part of the car’s mouth was torn away.  Locals helped us get the car back on the road.  As luck would have it, along came a gringo in a 356 Porsche.  We had no security to satisfy him for his spare, so he followed us to the VW dealer in Veracruz, where we left the car, and arranged for repair of the rim and a new tire, a 5.00×16 Euzkadi (Mexican Goodrich.)  VW had started assembling cars in Mexico in 1956, so no earlier parts, such as 16″ wheels, were available.

May 1961 – The rear end locked up while rounding the glorietta of the Angel in Mexico City.  I had it towed to a VW dealer, who opened the transaxle, and found the big nut had come off the pinion shaft and the R&P gears jammed together.  There was no sign of a cotter pin that would have held it together.  Since they had no parts for this early crash box, they put it back together with the damaged R&P, advising me it could last 400 or 4,000 Km. Total charge:  $50 US.  Fortunately, it held together about 4,000 Km, barely getting me back to San Diego.  The early nose piece is different from the 1956 tranny I found, so had to have it machined for the later tranny.  It held together.

June 1961 – San Diego to Springfield Oregon to see my parents.  I rounded a curve on a wide two lane stretch of the pre-interstate US 99 near Quines Creek in rural Oregon.  There were two deer at the right edge of the road, so I slowed to about 35, and made a wide arc over to the left shoulder.  The buck made a beeline for the far side at the same time, and we collided, me almost stopped by then.  He hit the right front of the car, slid on his back across the hood, landed on his feet on the left just ahead of the windshield, and stopped to look at me from 50 feet away.  Shaking, I could hardly believe what had just happened, but for the hair and hoof marks on the hood.

June 1961 – Oregon to Chicago via US 30.  I hardly remember that trip, as I was anxious to see a girl I had met in Mexico City.  I worked that summer selling Fuller Brush door to door.  The rain every few days confused and upset me, as the car was just a water catcher.  I survived that summer of rain, and enrolled at the Univ of Illinois.  I broke up with the girl I had followed from Mexico, and met another, who became my wife the next year.  There were many trips north to her home town in Rockford over the next couple of years.

Aug 1962 – Painted the car beyond white primer for the first time.  Buick had deep metallics at the time, and I chose a med-dark green metallic from about 1958.

Aug 1963 – I made a bolt-on hitch for the Devin, and made a 4×8 box trailer based on a Ford Anglia frontend turned backwards.  With all our worldly possessions, my bride and I headed for San Diego.  The trailer kept swerving at speeds greater than about 40, and the wife nearly lost it going down a hill on route 66 in Missouri. At a motel the next morning, a guy pointed out that the trailer’s wheels were toed outward, which would cause swerving.  Duh, I had installed the Anglia frontend backwards, and now toe-in was toe-out.  Fixed that, and it trailed perfectly from then on.

Early 1964 – we moved to Oregon for a few months, then on to Rockford, Ill, for family reasons.  We sold the trailer in San Diego and shipped our worldly belongings to Ill.

In Oregon, I made a frame and installed a 1955 Rambler windshield, replacing the scratched 1/8″ unframed plexi windshield it always had.  Anchoring the top to it was just too much stress for the plexi.

Driving through Yellowstone just after it opened in May, we saw almost nothing but snow banks until almost out of the east side.  There was a bull buffalo in the road, giving us a mean glare.  We stopped about 200 feet short of him, wondering what to do, when a station wagon came around us, honking.  The bull snorted and butted at the wagon, while getting off the road.  We quickly sneaked by, knowing he would not be intimidated by a Devin.”



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