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Hagerty
Hagerty Employee

This '48 oddball sent its inventor to court-and it's not a Tucker

In 1948, the same year that Preston Tucker rolled out the first of his cutting-edge Tucker 48s, another "car of tomorrow" was born in southern California. The two stories are oddly similar. Only a fraction of the planned production run became reality, and the cars' industrious creators both ended up in court.
https://www.hagerty.com/media/car-profiles/this-48-oddball-sent-its-inventor-to-court-and-its-not-a-...
34 REPLIES 34
RokemRonnie
Instructor

Oddball car collector extraordinaire Myron Vernis has a Davis. When I asked him what it was like to drive, he said, "Terrifying!".

You can make a reverse trike (like the Morgan, Polaris, or Vanderwall) that is stable if you have enough weight on the front end to keep it from lifting a wheel when cornering, but a trike with one wheel up front is almost inherently unstable.
PRScott
Instructor

That is the same wheel arrangement used by reliant in the UK and it was horribly unstable. So bad that they put small skids at each front corner.
DrWho
Intermediate Driver

You're right! Top Gear had the Stig lap Silverstone, or was it Brands Hatch (?) in the Reliant Robin with a predictable result, a roll-over. If you must have 3 wheels, then put the single wheel at the rear for stability and braking power. That said, you can't have more fun than a ride in a 3 wheel Morgan with someone who has mastered the hand brake turn!
cslandry
Intermediate Driver

Look at the Delta Wing race car. It's four wheels, but the front track is only 24 inches so it's sort of "3-wheel like". The difference is that it carried only 28% of it's weight on the front axle. I'd argue that it's possible to make a trike reasonably stable, but that wasn't the case with the Davis or the Robin.
Valvefloat
Intermediate Driver

Exactly right. You can have the two wheels in front or back, so long as the heavy end is the one with the two wheels.
buellerdan
Instructor

That is the same wheel arrangement used by my Radio Flyer tricycle. Somehow I survived into adulthood.
janedon
Advanced Driver

It "Could" just be that Most folks think they can Operate a completely different vehicle the Same way as how they drive what they are used to-- Learning how to Properly use a vehicle or tool makes All the Difference- It's sort of like people Insisting that they HAVE to update cars from the 70s or 80s brakes instead of driving according to how the car was made to be used-
hyperv6
Collector

We have a local collector with one of these. I was shocked the first time I saw it as I did not realize one was in the Akron Ohio area. I had only seen them in photos.

This one is a flat head six but I heard Wayne Carrini has a Flat head V8 version.

These are cool cars that you can for sure be special with as so few were built.

I expect the influx of all the new electric cars coming will produce a number of short run odd ball cars as not all will make it. It will be interesting to see the modern day Tucker or Davis show up.
FloridaMarty
Instructor

After reading the story and seeing the car, I think the courts got it right. Even trike style golf carts are dangerous.
okfoz
Advanced Driver

My dad had an electric Trike Harley Davidson Golf Cart, with a tiller control for steering. It was dicey at times, especially on hills, fortunately it was slow. I do not think he cared when the cart barn caught fire at the golf club.
cyclemikey
Detailer

I doubt that Gary Davis was any more of a "flim-flam artist" than most of todays tech startups, cryptocurrencies, and 'special purpose acquisition companies'.
Tinkerah
Engineer

Agreed. I'm sure he would've been thrilled to see his namesake become successful and make good on his employees' pay.
RobH
Intermediate Driver

At one point he probably wanted it to succeed, however what happened to the $15,000,000 (in today's dollars) he raised? If he truly wanted it to be a success, he could have paid his workers at the start - surely the tooling of the plant (already built), engineering on a design he stole from Kurtis and start-up supplies wouldn't have cost $15 Million. Where did the money go? Be interesting to hear the rest of the story; did he live a comfortable life after jail? Were all his employees finally paid from the lawsuit? Seems based on his marketing and sales prowess he kept the ruse going as long as he could, bilked his investors and lived the highlife until he was caught.
spark123
Advanced Driver

Like a certain EV manufacturer head with the initials E.M.. You can tell when that company needs cash. Some new thing surfaces that the public can put a substantial deposit on to secure your spot in line, so that when it actually surfaces you can be the first to boast having that. LOL
janedon
Advanced Driver

Not unlike the latest I Phone?? Think about it--Folks put money down on Unbuilt houses & Condos that frequently never get built- Hell- even buying online is a leap of Faith--
golfnut53083
Intermediate Driver

Very interesting design but no doubt it's failure was due to not being available in "Waltz Blue"!
Tinkerah
Engineer

Did you mean "Midnight Blue"?
JBBearcat
Advanced Driver

In the photo above, the aircraft is a Lockheed T-33, though at that date, (early to mid-1948), it was likely the prototype and called the TP-80 (In June it would be redesignated the TF-80. It would become the T-33, which became the world's leading jet trainer, in 1949).
Like the Davis, it was built in Van Nuys.

Probably easy to build given the war surplus aluminum and metal working machinery available.
AH3K
Intermediate Driver

I got one better... Here in the tiny town of Sedalia, Colorado, there's a collector of military vehicles and such... Ol' Fred HAS... 1 of only 3 (ever made) a Davis 3-wheeled JEEP. He regularly drives it (it's actually BIGGER than a conventional one) and with the LARGE front wheel it steers quite nicely. The story of how the military never adopted it, lies in how it was tested (listed as a conventional jeep)... but yep.... one of only THREE.
Grumpyoldcoot
Intermediate Driver

Oddball is right! The thing reminds me of a carnival bumper-car. Plus, cars/motorcycles with two rear wheels and one front wheel are know for their tendency for instability in turns.
janedon
Advanced Driver

Having ridden Trikes made from VWs -you just have to operate them Different than four wheeled vehicles or two wheeled vehicles-- Any transportation can be Unsafe if you don't use it Proper-- A hammer is unsafe when you don't know How to use it--
MrBill-1943
Advanced Driver

A day is lost without learning and I never lose a day. Thanks Hagerty for the history lesson.
Maestro1
Technician

I sat in a Davis, never rode in it, in Chicago 500 years ago. Thanks for the memories.........
Tinkerah
Engineer

I've never been in any road going three-wheeler but here in the Northeast, with no way to skirt or straddle them you'd be bouncing from one pothole to the next.

I had heard a little about this car. It looks like a blown up 50's bumper car which might be accurate. Nice to get a bigger part of the story. Didn't know there was a connection with Tucker also. Very interesting story.
Inline8OD
Technician

The first five commenters nailed it, much as everyone likes to root for an underdog. In the October, 1950 Road & Track, John Bond, nominally tech editor, a General Motors Institute mechanical engineering grad who designed Harley-Davidsons, then worked for Studebaker and White Trucks before he and wife Elaine saved the foundering Road & Track, using the New Yorker as their guide, publishing the nation's longest running car buff magazine to this day, mused in his monthly column, Misc. Ramblings:


"Amazing how many people still think the Davis 3-wheeler could have been a success. The car as planned was unstable, the single front tire was overloaded, and the price with all the featured gim-cracks would have been closer to $3,000 than the advertised $1,000. And, we still wonder how you miss an unexpected boulder lying on the road.

Equally amazing is the number of people who think Tucker 'had something.' The rear-engined car will not appear until it is possible to produce a 100 hp engine weighing not more than 300 pounds and costing no more than present-day powerplants. A small, low-powered car in this category is already a commercial success (Renault 4-CV) because the engine is very light. Best guess is that the popular priced rear-engined car for volume sale in this country is at least 10 years away."

farna
Instructor

I'd like to see the "military vehicle" version...
56NomadJohn
Intermediate Driver

There’s a picture of it in the article.
ConfuciusRacing
Detailer

Interesting car...I think an important ingredient of this particular concoction which was only slightly alluded to was the exuberance of the moment...this is post WW2 and for sure the US economy stepped up to meet the need for war machines....Buick made Airplanes...GM tanks, why couldn’t a 3 wheeler be viable...I think the mind set was: anything is possible, there are many smart people making new stuff...
Prevailing mental mind set I think helped move this idea along, when in other times it might not have been hatched.
SuperDeLuxe
Advanced Driver

Wayne Carini must be the luckiest human on the planet. He buys a car, of which no more than 15 were built, drives it to a "cars and caffeine" event the next day and coincidentally meets Gary Davis' personal secretary, who then corroborated the origin of Wayne's car as none other than Gary Davis' car. Wow 🤔
hornetllw
Pit Crew

Historically interesting. But that is where I would draw the line.
Inline8OD
Technician

Exactly.  Cars like the Davis, the Playboy and Tucker were possible only because after four long years of war,  there was a car shortage.  A decent '41 Chevy, for one, cost far more in 1945-46 than  it did new.   Road & Track editor/publisher John Bond's observations i recounted above on Wednesday sum it.

 Meanwhile, how many  times is Hagerty serving reruns?

RSorenson1
Intermediate Driver

Looks like refugees from the Bumper Cars ride at the fair.
Rdub
New Driver

This car was also featured on an early 50's television series titled "The Cases of Eddie Drake". The leading character (Eddie Drake) drove one. I was 7 years old and it was my favorite TV show, primarily because I was fascinated with the car. As you may imagine, in 1952 the Davis looked sleek and ultra modern. It was cool!