Model of the car: Davis d-2 Divan, 1947


The story of this arresting-looking three-wheeler with its four-abreast seating begins in 1938, when a similar one-off car was commissioned by wealthy American playboy Joel Thorne. He regularly cruised the streets of Los Angeles in his three-wheeled wonder “Californian.” One man who was particularly taken with it was car salesman Glenn Gordon “Gary” Davis.

1947 model car Davis d-2 Divan

A removable hardtop would have been standard equipment on the four-abreast, three-wheeler Divan, had Gary Davis’s ambitious plans succeeded.

Somehow, Davis managed to acquire the car, which had inspired him to try and sell a version to American motorists. Treating the Californian as his rolling billboard and prototype, Davis toured the nation promoting his Davis Motor Car Company. Having acquired a factory in Van Nuys, and with the Californian beginning to look rather worn, Davis hired some engineers to help him build a production prototype. Three experimental cars later, the specification of the Davis Divan was settled. It now included a 159ci (2,600cc) Hercules engine and a three-speed Borg Warner gearbox. The hardtop was removable and headlights were concealed behind flaps.

1947 model car Davis d-2 Divan

1947 model car Davis d-2 Divan

Model car Davis d-2 Divan

Model car Davis d-2 Divan

Although eye-catching, only a few were test-built before Davis’s exasperated staff sued him for unpaid wages. Despite plans for making 50 cars daily and new designs for a three-wheeled military vehicle, the plant was shut in mid-1948. Davis was jailed for two years for defrauding investors; after he served his sentence in 1953, he became involved in making bumper cars. Whether or not Gary Davis was a conman, he certainly created a car like nothing else on the road.

“As peculiar as the Divan might appear, its composed road manners hint that with a bit less boasting and a lot more funding, there may have been room on American roads for this idiosyncratic three-wheeler.”

Autoweek Magazine, 2007

Video model car Davis d-2 Divan

Specification model car Davis d-2 Divan

YEAR REVEALED: 1947
PLACE OF ORIGIN: Van Nuys, California
HISTORICAL STATUS: production car
ENGINE: four-cylinder, 159ci 2, (600cc)
MAXIMUM POWER: 63bhp
LAYOUT: front-mounted engine driving the rear wheels
BODYWORK: two-door four-seater coupé
TOP SPEED: 65mph (105kph) (estimated)
NUMBER BUILT: 13