This little beast is a 1948 Davis Divan, a strange, three-wheeled runabout that never got past the prototype stage. And if you’re thinking that it looks a bit like a carnival bumper car — well, there may be a reason for that.
Frank Kurtis had a long career and solid reputation as a designer of race cars, everything from midgets to Formula One. Joel Thorne was, among other things, a part-time Indy race car driver and he commissioned Kurtis to design a one-off car for him. The result was a unique 3-wheeled contrivance with a single wheel in front, two in the rear and a front mounted 4-cylinder engine powering the rear wheels.
Thorne drove the car all over southern California where it caught the attention of a slick salesman named Glenn Davis. Davis acquired the car and decided to try his hand at building and marketing more of them. He rented an abandoned airplane hangar in Van Nuys, Calif., and hired a crew to build a few prototypes while he traveled around the country hawking the car and trying to sell dealerships.
It wasn’t long before Davis ran afoul of the law over a number of issues. Investors and franchisees sued over non-performance and his 17 employees got in line, suing for paychecks that they never received.
After an investigation of his operations, authorities closed the business down and Davis spent two years in prison for fraud. While the operation was still in business somewhere between 13 and 15 prototypes were assembled and 12 of them are still around.
After his release from prison, Davis worked on other ventures including Dodge-em bumper cars, an amusement park attraction with electric powered cars that looked suspiciously like the Davis Divan.