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Fraud, failure bring rarity to 1948 Davis

Posted by Peter Bourassa  March 11, 2010 07:50 PM

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(All photos: Essex Television Group)

Wayne Carini, host of the popular television show "Chasing Classic Cars," is bringing a very rare and special car to the Amelia Island Concours this Sunday.

The car, a 1948 Davis, is one of ten survivors of the 13 ever built. Wayne is restoring it from its current purple color to its original light green and will display it in the "Motor Trend Cover Cars" category. It will be a hit.

The story of the Davis Motor Car Company is as extraordinary as the car itself.

By May of 1948, the dream was coming to an end for Glen Gordon (Gary) Davis. In a cross- country trip transporting two Davis Motor Car prototypes, he had convinced investors and established dealerships to invest over $1.2 million in his extraordinary new car. The three-wheel Davis Automobile was an attractive, ultra-modern looking automobile that sat four abreast in its single front seat and sold for only $995.


Davis came back to California able to pay off creditors and staff and prepared to build the dream and fill the orders. He purchased an unused aircraft hanger in Van Nuys and prepared to build his cars. But while in Detroit, one of the two prototypes was stolen.

Conspiracy theories abound, and though some believe the company's failure was due to being locked out of purchasing parts or raw materials by Detroit's big three, an equal number ascribed it to unrealistic optimism and inexperienced management. Investors claimed fraud and disgruntled former employees sued. The Davis Motor Car Company was closed and went the way of the Tucker and Kaiser.

Gary Davis was convicted of fraud. Interestingly, though the court agreed that the papers he signed held out no promises, his personal integrity was considered a strong enough commitment for the court to hold him liable.

He served two years in a minimum security prison. Upon his release his worked in an amusement park where he eventually developed the highly successful new entertainment whose components had a familiar look about them.

They were called "bumper cars."

Peter Bourassa runs, a classic car enthusiast forum and marketplace.

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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