Barry Fagan: A Man, a Dream and Two Cars – A Devin and a Valkyrie

Hi Gang…

We have some great people, great stories, and great cars out there – and the purpose of Forgotten Fiberglass is to create a community and celebrate stories such as the one we are sharing today encouraging folks like Barry Fagan to complete their cars.  After all, there’s no better feeling than driving one of these on the backroads of America – or sharing your work at a top notch show – so that everyone can appreciate the fun and excitement of seeing these vintage ‘glass sports cars alive and kicking again.

Let’s hear from one of the recent additions to Forgotten FIberglass – our newest fiberglass aficionado and friend Barry Fagan.

Take it away Barry 🙂

Letter From Barry Fagan
September 25, 2014

Geoff….

I’ve enjoyed reading the posts on all the great cars on Forgotten Fiberglass, and talking at times with Geoff, Rick D’Louhy, Harold Pace and Phil Fleming at the 2014 Carlisle Import and Kit Car Show, and I thought I’d share some words and pictures on my cars, even though they are “not ready for prime time”.

My First Car: 1959 Devin Sports Car

The first is a 1959 Devin kit car. A lot of guys tend to get in trouble when their wife goes out of town, and I guess I’m no exception. Luckily, my dalliances are mostly with automobiles, although that still seems to have an impact on the marriage. In 1993, my wife took our then newborn son (now a 21-year-old) off to visit relatives, leaving me with some time to kill. The Internet wasn’t nearly the tool for searching for old cars that it is today, but we did have regional newspapers full of classified ads for vintage, muscle, and collectible cars.

While perusing one of these, I ran across a small photo add for the car in the photographs below, located about an hour and a half from my house. By the time my wife and son got back from relatives, the car was sitting in the barn.

The car itself was built by a private individual in 1959, using a Devin kit body over a 1949 Chevrolet frame.  He installed a Corvette motor (yes, I have the Corvette script cast aluminum valve covers and the block has the appropriate stampings & casting numbers) that was a test engine from the Morraine Division of Delco-Morraine, a Hydromatic transmission & a 1957 Pontiac rear end. 

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He used the car exclusively for drag racing.  The color reminds me of the shade of blue that the Echidnas were painted, but I haven’t been able to confirm this.  At some point in the mid 1960’s he modified the appearance of the car. By my reckoning, he must have gone through the J.C. Whitney catalog and ordered an accessory from every page – scoops leading nowhere, a rear wing, tiny steering wheel, barefoot gas pedal, etc.

He put the car away about 1970. I believe he was undergoing a divorce in 1993, & offered it for sale for a very reasonable price.  I inspected the car & bought it at that time.  The photographs that I’ve enclosed date from that time.  The former owner had suggested that he would forward the car’s drag racing log book, but that did not occur.

After his divorce the owner left for Florida, and has not responded to my attempts to contact him over the years.  I was able to locate his son in Ohio, but he too, claims to have lost contact with the owner. My point with all this is that the car does have an established race history, even if I can’t back it up with a logbook.

I have little interest in drag racing however, & yearn for a sports racer along the lines of a Devin SS.  My budget won’t allow the SS, however, and my thoughts run along the lines of modifying the mechanicals of this particular car for road racing.  To that end, I have purchased a set of 15” 72 spoke wire wheels, and a worn out Jaguar sedan of the appropriate vintage for brakes & suspension, & plan on chasing down a period-correct 4-speed before welding up a tube frame a la Devin SS.

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As I study the car critically, & compare it to authentic Devin SS’s, I can identify confounding issues. It’s well known that Bill Devin was heralded as a genius for making modular molds so that his bodies would fit everything from Crosleys to Cadillacs.  What is production genius is not necessarily artistic genius however. 

My car is an X-6 (Bill Devin’s favorite model, according to a phone conversation I had with him in the 1990’s) and it is a very large car, with 6 inches of width spliced in, and a wheelbase closer to 106 inches than the original 92.  As such, I feel it lacks the graceful proportions of the original Ermini splash, in the same way that Dolly Parton might look a little out of proportion at 6 feet tall.

There is a lot of empty space in the cutout behind the wheel on the front fender, the air intake seems ponderous, and the body lacks much of a kick up for the rear wheels behind the seats. I got stalled for quite some time on the issue of whether to leave the car original and as raced, or to modify it further, to suit my tastes, and bring it up to a higher aesthetic and mechanical standard.

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I actually brooded on this for more than a decade, before writing Geoff late one night to have a philosophical discussion on the subject. I e-mailed the letter to him a little after midnight, and got an answer back about two o’clock in the morning. By about nine o’clock the following morning we were discussing the subject by phone (I guess Geoff doesn’t sleep much!), and now I’m in the process of trying to bring it up to a higher standard. The original workmanship was not bad, but neither was it “magazine cover” material.

In my conversation with Harold Pace, he made some good mitigating suggestions, such as filling the space in the wheel well with headers and adding white side pipes to visually shorten & lower the car. Geoff also provided some further suggestions, such as lowering the floor pan, as the seats tend to sit too high, and the driver appears to be sticking up much higher than the windshield.

As a dry run for what this might look like, and lacking any Photoshop skills, I simply cut the appropriate pieces from color photocopies of other cars, and pasted them onto a photograph, as seen below. My choice of photographs was limited, so on one I appear to be standing behind the outside exhaust, which are simply sketched in using a silver marking pen.

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Work is progressing, when my day job allows.

My Second Car: 1975 Valkyrie

The second car is a more recent acquisition. It’s a Valkyrie GTX, probably from about 1975 or so. I’ve been aware of the car’s existence for a few years. I live out in the country, and the car sat under a tarp a few miles from my house, on a road that connects with the next small town.

I’d pass it once every couple of months, but it wasn’t until the tarp blew off last year that I had any inkling of what it was. I did have a chance to talk to the owner for a few minutes last year, but at that time he wasn’t interested in selling the car. I happen to be driving by this Spring, and he was loading it up on a trailer. 

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It turns out that he was moving to a different property. Again I asked him if he was interested in selling the car, and this time I was able to purchase it for a very reasonable price, along with a 1966 Corvair as a spare donor car. As it was already on the trailer, he subsequently delivered it to my storage area.

The Valkyrie has a special place in my heart. I grew up in Cleveland in the 1960s and 70s, and, at one point, Fiberfab had one of its headquarters there. Being too young for a driver’s license, and unable to convince our parents to drive us, a friend and I took the buses as far as we could, and hitchhiked and walked the rest of the way to get to the show room, which is where I first saw the car.

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I still have the literature from that visit somewhere. Some people deride the Valkyrie as a poor copy of the GT 40 Ford, but I saw the Valkyrie before I saw the GT 40, and it still quickens my pulse 42 years later. This example is going to need some work before it hits the road again, however. It was a running car about 10 years ago, apparently, originally from Pennsylvania. (By that time, I believe the factory was in Bridgeport Pennsylvania also.).

It was powered by a 1957 283 cubic inch engine out of a Corvette (yes, once again, I have another set of Corvette script valve covers, although the dual four barrel carburetors were discarded along the way.), as well as the typical Corvair transaxle, rear suspension, and steering box. The front, paradoxically, is a Mustang II, although the Corvair parts car would allow conversion back to the original. I did get a chance to discuss restoration issues with some other Valkyrie and Avenger owners at the Carlisle Import and Kit Show, and I’ve been corresponding with one, since that time with regard to specific details. I still have a lot to learn however.

Barry Fagan

Summary:

I guess I may stay up a bit late in the evening Barry.  I used to say that nothing fun happened until after 5pm.  But I’m older now, and since I’m in Florida, I’m concerned that our west coast contingent of Forgotten Fiberglass aficionados may not have someone to talk to when contemplating fiber-cars in the evening.  

*wink*

I usually do call it a night somewhere between 2 and 3am east coast time.   I here to help, and glad I could do so 🙂

What a great story Barry, and I appreciate your willingness to share both detail and photos of your sports cars.  And gang…let Barry know what you think – post your comments below concerning his cars and share your thoughts on the changes that he could consider making.  The more interaction we have with each story – the better and stronger the fiber-community, and the better end result they’ll be with finished cars.

Both of Barry’s cars are excellent and I look forward to seeing each on the road, at shows, and/or both.  I wish you the best of success Barry and be sure to keep us posted with your progress.

Hope you enjoyed the story, and until next time…

Glass on gang…

Geoff

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* Click on the following link to view all stories on:  Devin Sports Cars
* Click on the following link to view all stories on:  Fiberfab Sports Cars

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Comments

Barry Fagan: A Man, a Dream and Two Cars – A Devin and a Valkyrie — 10 Comments

  1. Lovely looking cars and a good read all-round 🙂
    Hope one day to have the J6 Panther and any other ‘Glass’ I take temporary care-taker-ship of gathered amongst some of the cars we see on this site!
    PS – I can confirm that Geoff does not sleep – owing to the time difference I reach him on the phone from all the way out over here

    • Thank you for the kind words. I resonate with you philosophy on the temporary taker-care-ship of these objects. One of my other interests is old banjos & guitars. Some of the stuff I have hanging on the walls was around 100 years before I was, & should be around 100 years after.

      Love to see a photo of the J6.

      Barry

  2. Hi Barry,
    Welcome to the group! Good to see the Devin is coming along, and I have always loved the Valkyrie! What a great find. The GTX had the cool nose spoiler. And I think your idea of using the Jag donor car for suspension on the Devin is a good one.
    On the Valkyrie, if the Mustang II front suspension is in place and working it is a pretty good unit. If you switch back to Corvair, be sure to upgrade to disc brakes. If you haven’t found Clark’s Corvair you need to look them up on the internet – they make everything for Corvairs!
    Best wishes,
    Harold Pace

    • Thank you sir, & thanks once again for the helpful advice you shared with my son & I after your talk at the 2013 Carlisle Kit Car Show – it helped to break the inertia that I mentioned in the paragraph re the Devin. The Jag that donated the front & rear suspensions was a thoroughly-rusted 420 from about 1967, but the underpinnings appear to be the same back to the late 50’s – big inboard discs on the IRS & fairly big ones on the front, although with with recirculating ball steering, rather than rack & pinion. If Bill Devin is watching from above, he’s going to note that there is no DeDion set up on the rear end on my pseudo-SS, either. Next on my parts liste will be a large, flat, wood-rimmed 3 spoke steering wheel & seats without headrests.

      I agree re the front spoiler on the Valkyrie. I’ve sourced a set of headlamp covers from Mark Clapp & the front end is starting to look good. On your advice, I think I’ll probably keep the Mustang II front suspension. It has the additional advantage that it’s already welded in there!

      I’ll check out Clark’s Corvair for the other upgrades, though. Thank you again.

  3. Great cars , I had a Gt 40 but mine was V W powered that’s why I no longer have it, but with any small block Chevy it would have been a keeper, still love the looks of them.
    The Devin is sweet and no one knows more than Harold Pace about Devin’s, all you have to do is look at his to have the perfect example.Plus you can google images, Good luck with your builds.

    • Merci, Jean. (Sorry, couldn’t resist.) I’d love to have a real SS, but they just don’t come up that frequently on Craigslist in my part of town.

  4. Hi Gang and Barry-

    Good for you! Get at least one done so you can use it!
    On the matter of the height of the driver in the Devin- don’t worry about it- if you’re comfortable, do it! Being a bit higher also gives you a commanding view of any track or road you are on – it’s great!
    Bob

    • The Devin is MUCH closer to roadworthy than is the Valkyrie, so that’s the one I’m focused on at present. I’ll keep you (all) posted on progress.

      With the Valkyrie, I’m still gathering info from the folks in the Valkyrie-Avenger Club. Nice bunch also.

  5. Hi Barry, glad you like the light covers for the Valkyrie. I can also do some for your Devin when you’re ready. I make pieces like light covers and windows for just about every kit and replica car out there. Feel free to email me at: mclapp1@att.net or better yet, call me anytime at: 816-286-6982 to talk about your car and any plexi parts you could use.

    Thanks,
    Mark Clapp

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