Here’s a short article on the first fiberglass car Bill Devin offered to the public – the Devin Panhard.
It appeared in the September 1955 issue of Sports Cars Illustrated where the car was discussed in detail over 3 full pages. Interesting, on the last page of the article, the car is referred to as the “Devin C Panhard.” I’m sure more research will uncover additional information about this designation, and if it was used very long – or at all.
In terms of the origination of this design, here’s what Automobile Quarterly (Fall 1985, volume 23, Number 3) had to say about the Devin Panhard:
“……Devin had acquired a French Deutsch-Bonnet. The body wasn’t beautiful, but it was reasonably aerodynamic. “I took the ‘splash’ off the D-B body,” Devin says. “I made some minor changes but for all practical purposes, that was a copy of the D-B body – in fiberglass. I didn’t know a thing about making fiberglass, I just did it hit or miss.” By July 1954, the first 950 pound Devin-Panhard was fully assembled and ready to race.”
One interesting car gang, and many have survived and are vintage raced today. Let’s take a look at the article in detail:
Devin’s Kit Kar: (Sports Car Illustrated, September 1955)
Until recently the really “potent competition machinery has reached well up into four figures and often lapped over into five without batting an eye. Most competitors in sports car races were either content to go along with the high tariff or watch the Maseratis., OSCA’s, and the like wistfully from the cockpits of their MGs or Jaguars, with no very great hope of acquiring one of the other machines.
Bill Devin, an enterprising designer and now manufacturer from Fontana, California has come up with a solution for most of this daydreaming with a car that could make “someday” a reality. Devin, using Panhard components, has come up with a diminutive bomb that can and does take on 1100cc OSCAs and hold them. The car can do pretty well with the 1300 variety. All this for just over $2000 – if you want to assemble the components yourself.
On top of all this, the car is docile in every day driving and, due to the Devin seat design, comfortable on extended cross country jaunts. The instrumentation is complete. All in all, the car belies the price of $2850 delivered, assembled, ready to run.
The kit components are considerably less, if you want to bolt the car together and due to the careful preparation of the components this is about all that is necessary. The body, primed for painting, with windshield, dash, headlights, and all hardware along with a pair of seats, padded and covered in Naugahyde, lists at $750. This will fit any 85 inch wheelbase chassis and weights only a fraction of similar body shells. The chassis with either the 745 or 850cc engine is $995 with a supercharger running $195 extra.
The only other component you need is the framework for mounting the body shell. That is $195 and you’re in business for $2135 and a few hours work.
The specifications are enough to make any mouth water, to wit:
- Weight – approximately 950 lbs
- Front wheel drive
- Rack and pinion steering
- Independent front suspension with two transverse leaf springs
- Trailing arm rear suspension with six adjustable torsion arms.
- Adjustable Houdaille shock absorbers
- 4-speed transmission
- Lockheed hydraulic brakes
- Choice of gear ratios
- Hood (front half of body) instantly removable for accessibility
- 850cc engine – bore 85mm, stroke 75mm
- 745cc engine – bore 79.5mm, stroke 75mm
- Piston speed 2500 fpm at 5100 rpm
- Valve diameter – intake 40mm, exhaust 34mm
- The engine is the Panhard 2-cylinder (flat twin) giving simplicity, sturdiness and perfect balance
- Overhead valves inclined at 45 degrees in hemispherical combustion chambers
- Ball and socket pivoted rocker arms
- Aluminum alloy tubular pushrods with steel inserts
- Roller cam followers, steel rollers, aluminum tappets
- Special patented valve gear with torsion bars and pressure lubricated needle bearings
- Roller bearing rods and mains
- Variable compression ratio
Hope you enjoyed the story, and until next time…
Glass on gang…
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When Growing up in St. Louis I was an avid drag racing fan and general gearhead . I met a guy named Bill Rhodes who owned a Devin bodied roadster running a Chevy mouse motor, 327 I think; Hilborn injection on alcohol, B&M hydro, etc. I took a Greyhound bus to Indy for the summer nationals in 1962 or 63? because I wasn’t old enough to drive. I did gopher stuff like get breakfast at White Castle at 6:am. Motel room was packed, everything on a budget. I don’t remember which Altered class but Bill was in the low10s. Good times.