Paul Giannuzzi’s Devin Sports Car: In Search of History

Paul Giannuzzi's Devin Sports Car
Paul Giannuzzi’s Devin Sports Car

Hi Gang…

Undiscovered Classic cars are finding themselves across the world.  Today’s story herald’s from the UK, but it started out in the 50s on a lost American road.  And perhaps “you” may find the pieces to solve this puzzle.  Onward we go. 

Back in 1998, Paul Giannuzzi’s friend Pete Gregory bought a 1959 Devin.  The sports car had a number of interesting features and looks like it may have been a well-performing car at one time.  Perhaps even a race car.  Pete had bought the car from a company called “Driving Ambition” in Portland, Oregon.  Let’s take a look at some of the photos of when Pete first got the Devin.

Chain of Custody:

The car had some documentation with it, but the documentation started later in the car’s life – 1969.   A gentleman by the name of Ralph Lester of LaGrange, Illinois had bought the car in 1969.  It’s not known whether he raced the car or acquired the car and just stored it after purchase.  In the early 1970s a change of ownership went from Lester to Robert Ayers of Michigan and then to Roswell Daggett of Georgia.

Roswell moved to California and sold the car approximately 20 years later to James Ashworth where in 1996 the car was acquired by the company that sold it to Pete – Driving Ambition.  Pete shipped the car to his home in the UK and then later – Paul Giannuzzi – bought it from Pete’s family.

While Roswell Daggett owned the Devin, he documented the following:

“I had purchased the Devin in Niles, Michigan from Robert Ayers.  He had purchased a farm in 1971 and the car was in a barn on the property.  The owner had moved to the Far East and gave Robert the title prior to my buying the car.  The car had a Chrysler engine and a standard transmission.  I was told the car had been road raced from the middle of 1960 thru around 1966.”

Whew!  That’s a lot of history in a small space, but it’s always good to document a chain of custody for our cars and Paul has done a superb job at doing this for the Devin he is restoring.

The Restoration Begins

So far Paul has separated the body from the chassis and is busy with plans for chassis restoration in the short term.  Let’s check out some photos of where it stands now.

Unique Aspects of this Car

We don’t have much to go on here but there are some pieces unique to this car.  There’s no “Devin Dashboard” in place.  That is, the double-hump racing style dashboard that we see on most Devins.  Instead the dashboard and windscreen are unique.  This means that if we can match what we see in the photos with vintage photos of Devins assuming the dashboard on this car is original (and we find a vintage match) we might come up with the missing history.

Click Here To Learn More on Using Dashboards To Help Research Your American Specials

Next, the place to start looking for history is where the car was found – Illinois.  I’ve always said in researching a car:

“Cars are like fish on a reef – they don’t stray too far”

My greatest research successes have come from following this philosophy – time and time again.  Perhaps it was built and / or raced in the midwest.  This is where I would start to look for any history on this car.

Summary:

Great thanks again to Paul Giannuzzi for sending in today’s photos and story.  Hopefully the information shared here today will help Paul find the full history of his car – perhaps with the help of one of our Undiscovered Classics aficionados out there.  Go get ’em gang!

Hope you enjoyed the story, and remember…

The adventure continues here at Undiscovered Classics.

Geoff


Comments

Paul Giannuzzi’s Devin Sports Car: In Search of History — 13 Comments

  1. Are the wheel wells on this Devin an option that was available? Or, did the owner modify the original Devin wheel wells?

  2. I always thought that the Devin was one of the best looking race cars, Jim Chaffee from Mt. Baldy, California was a very successful racer in his Devin The Pink Elephant in the late 50s and early 60s.
    This will be a fun project to keep an eye on.

  3. That’s one very nice body design and I look forward to seeing it’s completion. if it’s ever on display near me in UK I will make a point of going to see it.

  4. Great to see the car, confused about the body, I feel the body is an SS body but the high rear end looks different for some reason. I have the Devin SS prototype and several SS cars so look at the design every day. Could someone help?

    • My personal opinion is that its a standard Devin body that has been modified at the front of the car. The story is it had a Chrysler engine (hemi?) if so it would have needed a large radiator to cool it. Most non-SS Devin bodies are kind of flat at the front (see Echidna) The dash and windscreen are also like no production Devin body, yet the rear end body work, has again that flat or better said shallow rear body. Having owed a Byers 90 body, and the front half of a Devin cut to be a forward tilt, I have some experance with the shape. Please keep us informed.

  5. @ Michael – Thanks for sharing your thoughts here Michael – you may very well be right. I appreciate you chiming in. Best, Geoff

    • Have been checking out carefully the body from different angles. Check the wheel wells, the air vent on the side and the lower borders on the wheel wells and body. Notice how it flows and moves back in a continuous flow, The angle of the wheel well is matched by the angle of the air vent, all of one piece. This was a regular production Devin body, that was taken in hand by a master craftsman. It looks like the dash was made for a five inch tack with smaller oil and water gauges on each side. The wind screen is almost centered. This does not meet the SCCA regulation for this time, and was not the fashion. Plus again the rear wheel wells are well finished, not some cut away with a saw to added large rear tires. Wild guess, could this car have run in the sports car class at the 1/4 miles. A Drag Car??? Need to look carefully at the chassis to see what it can tell us about the function and purpose. Check rear suspension to see if drag links are present. Another hint, Chrysler (Hemi ?) engine, too heavy for road racing, but perfect for drags. Road racing would have cried out for a short block Chevy. What does the 3 inch chrome roll bar say, again not the fashion at SCCA, nor the lack of doors. PS. I Love This Car !

      • I don’t agree that a hemi is not a better choice than a “short block Chevy”. Where would you put the spark plugs?

  6. I agree it looks like a 1/4 miler. Push-bar rear bumper. Big rear and smaller front tire arrangement and enlarges wheel openings for slicks to “grow” into.

  7. Based on my recollections, semi trained eye, and observations of the two Devins I have, here are my thoughts:

    The Devin SS had a “hump” in the cowl in front of each side of the cockpit. It had inset front “parking” lights on each side, just outboard of the air opening, which was therefore perhaps a smidgeon narrower. There was also a rudimentary, very low spoiler behind the trunk lid. (Maybe all SSs did not have all of these features; I don’t know.)

    The subject car’s body seems to have the following modifications from a “standard” Devin body:

    Head rest added.

    Body behind rear wheels horizontally “sectioned” several inches, lower section raised and bonded to upper.

    Cockpit shortened by extending cowl back several inches, rear of cockpit on driver’s side therefore extended back, all ostensibly to move driver back.

    Single cowl hump added on driver’s side, much higher than Devin equivalent.

    Slight flares added to wheel openings.

    I’m not convinced the front air opening is any larger than standard non-SS. (And why would a Hemi need more cooling than any similar sized V8? Because it’s heavier?)

    I agree that the windscreen center is biased towards the center of the car relative to the steering wheel, but only slightly. Its coverage is still greater than afforded by a Brookland’s screen, and should not run afoul of any SCCA rules.

    It would have been nice to have included pictures of chassis. Brake size and general suspension design would provide some evidence regarding drag vs road racing. The front wheel size does not seem consistent with drag racing. (Are those wheels real knock-offs, and magnesium? That’s a big “plus”!)

  8. ‘Hemi’ does not automatically mean a Chrysler like Cunningham and Allard used. DeSotos beginning in ’52 and Dodges in ’54 had smaller ones. My ’54 Dodge Red Ram is 241ci and weighs about the same as an SBC. Just sayin…

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