Exceedingly Well-Documented California-Built Devin SS with Historic Racing Provenance.
1959 Devin SS
s/n DSS-001 California-Chassis Prototype
White with Blue Stripes and Black Leather Seat Interior
Bill Devin had his hands in many aspects of the sports car and competition world. Already an innovator in fiberglass technology in many applied areas including sports cars, Devin developed many different body designs using a series of clever modular body molds that could be expanded, shortened, and refixtured to accommodate a wide range of frames. This modular system was key to his company growth. Business took off quickly as sales of hundreds of $295.00 body kits shipped off to aspiring sports car enthusiasts. This variability combined with excellent body molding technique resulted in his car bodies appearing on a wide range of cars. The modest cost afforded aspiring racers an inexpensive way to modify several small displacement cars with modest four-cylinder engines. But it would ultimately be the Devin SS (Super Sport) a completely unique construction and design that would cement Bill Devin as a pioneer in powerful American-built front-engine sports racers.
Success in the fiberglass industry brought numerous inquiries to Devin from all over the world, including the unlikely city of Belfast, Northern Ireland. Malcolm MacGregor and Noah Hills were both avid race fans and commercial engineers. They’d managed to construct a chassis of their own design but needed a suitable body when they invited Bill Devin to come visit Ireland. Devin spirited to Ireland, met the duo, tested their car, and, instead of supplying the body, decided they should build a chassis to a different set of specifications, one that Devin himself would market and sell. The Irish team refined their design based on Devin’s suggestions, and by late 1957 the first Irish built, revised chassis was shipped to America ready for the new body, which was developed specifically for this chassis. By late 1958 a complete 2,000 lb competition-based SS was ready for delivery. Built with four-wheel disc brakes and outfitted with competition-derived suspension use, the Devin SS was capable of amazing performance. When tested by Sports Car Illustrated the SS achieved unheard of results ticking off 0-60 times of 4.8 seconds, and 1-100 in 12.9 seconds running a 283 Chevrolet V8 engine with a single four-barrel carburetor and 4-speed Borg Warner manual transmission. All this more than five years ahead of Carroll Shelby and his Cobra.
The Devin SS was immediately lauded for its great looks combined with fantastic performance. With low running costs and reliability working in favor over European cars, Pete Woods captured the 1959 California Club C-modified Championship. As others began racking up track wins, Devin planned to build 100 cars, hoping to compete at LeMans. Though loved by the press and adored by sports car enthusiasts, the impressive speed could not outrun the costs to build the SS. Devin did his best to curb costs, electing to build the chassis eventually in his California shop. Even with a $6,000 price, later raised to $10,000, Devin was losing money on each one built. Though primarily built for competition events, the Devin SS was a dual-purpose road car, though most were finding greater success in racing than as expensive road cars, which also limited sales. As promising as the victories at the track were, the writing was on the wall – production had to end. Total Devin SS production consisted of fifteen first-series Irish chassis cars built in late 1957 and 1958, with fewer than ten second-series California-chassis cars. Of particular note, the California-chassis benefited from stiffer rectangular member frame construction, un-equal length A-arm front suspension, coil-over live axle rear suspension, and the fuel tank moved to the center rear portion of the car for added safety.
This Devin SS, chassis number DSS-001, is the first of the California-chassis second-series cars, and one of three initial prototypes built with Devin improvements developed during the testing and sorting of the first-series Irish chassis cars. Upon completion in 1959, DSS-001 was used as a promotional model for advertising and marketing campaigns for Devin cars. Sold in 1961 to a private owner, the car was then sold to Terry Stokes, a mechanic and restorer including career service to Carroll Shelby, Phil Hill, and Mario Andretti. Stokes enjoyed the car in vintage racing and street use, but also attended various concours events into the mid 1990s. In 1995, Bill Devin bought DSS-001 back from Stokes, and then sold it to Petersen Automotive Museum board member Steve Young. A life-long enthusiast of performance cars, Young engaged Devin expert Chris Wickersham to restore the car including the installation of a 327 Corvette engine built to 440 horsepower, running on pump gas. Young competed in a wide range of vintage events with the car subsequently selling it to the next owner who also campaigned the car in various vintage events. Competition logbooks accompany the car however, it is also titled for street use. According to numerous records, letters from Bill Devin, and Devin SS expert evaluations accompanying this car, chassis number DSS-001 is the recognized and documented prototype of the California-chassis version and the only surviving example in existence today.
In preparation for racing events, the car was outfitted with a 12 gallon “Fuel-Safe” fuel cell, a Halon fire system, external electric cut-off switch, an integrated roll bar, Lakewood bellhousing scatter shield, and a Performance Industries lightweight racing clutch. The engine is an early cast (870 series) 327 V8, built to 440 hp using solid lifters, HMSA legal stamped rockers, stainless steel valves, 12.5:1 compression, JE pistons, street crankshaft, Kryptonite rods, Manly bolts, Fel-Pro gaskets, and an Earl’s oil cooler. An MSD ignition and distributor with mechanical tach drive and Griffin aluminum radiator were also installed along with a five-point driver harness and three-inch passenger lap belts draped over leather upholstered seats. A set of custom headers and side exit exhaust were also fabricated specifically for this car.
Over the years this Devin SS has garnered many awards and accolades both in competition settings and in other vintage events including:
1979 Die Hard Award, Monterey Village Race
1st and 2nd in Class – Chadwick Concours d’Elegance
2nd in Class – Long Beach Grand Prix Concours d’Elegance
1st in Class – 1980 San Fernando Valley Concours d’Elegance
1st in Class – 2003 “The Quail” Concours d’Elegance ‘Post War Racing’
DSS-001 has appeared in numerous publications including a feature article in Motor Trend Magazine, and several vintage races and events including the Copperstate Classic, Laguna Seca Monterey Historics, and Coronado Speed Festival to name a few, as documented in multiple page entries in the accompanying competition logbook. In addition to the documentation supporting the history of the car, records for restoration work performed by Wickersham and other performance experts also accompany the car.
Today, this Devin SS presents in excellent condition throughout. Though the restoration was completed some time ago, the finishes are still very nice overall, exceeding what is typically found in vintage race cars. In addition to the authenticity employed in the restoration, the car has not been over-restored and can be readily enjoyed as an event car while still confidently displayed at shows. The white paint is glossy and smoothly applied, accented by metallic blue stripes and racing numbers, which appropriately captures the fluidity of the undulating fender lines and low-profile silhouette. The rare fiberglass Devin SS body is beautifully contoured highlighting the dramatic fenders that stretch out over the wide, low body, flanked at each side by chrome plated dual side pipes signaling the powerful V8 concealed beneath the vented hood. The curved Lucite windscreen is perfectly contoured with no exterior trim to upset the beautiful body lines. A set of chrome Dayton wire wheels and appropriately sized tires make for the perfect combination, filling the wheel openings with both power and elegance. Every view of the car is a reminder of how well Bill Devin executed a sportscar with hints of European flair, while delivering a unique American design.
Inside the cockpit, the array of original Devin branded instruments combined with period correct Stewart Warner gauges enhance the distinctively molded dual-pod dashboard. The finishes throughout remain in very good to excellent condition including the specially contoured black leather seats, wood rimmed steering wheel, and tastefully carpeted floor pan. The molded rear bulkhead further illustrates Devin’s use of molded material technology allowing for a sturdy rear bulkhead that also forms durable strike surfaces for the hinged doors. The quality of the build and restoration are very nicely balanced even as time has passed since the restoration was completed.
The engine compartment has been both accurately prepared and represents finishes in keeping with period correct construction. The engine, uprated for performance use today, shows a combination of contemporary fuel lines and hardware along with period correct detailing. Modestly topping the four-barrel carburetor, the small air cleaner quietly hides the powerful capability of this 440hp engine, which can be enjoyed both on the track or as a road car. The underside of the car is once again in keeping with the history and care offered over the documented ownership, with generally clean and tidy components, four-wheel disc brakes, and period correct suspension affixed to the factory-built frame. Some modern updates have been added to the chassis for competition use and safety.
This rare prototype Devin SS is offered with a large, tabulated notebook containing letters from Bill Devin documenting the history of DSS-001, letters and evaluation from Devin expert Chris Wickersham, restoration records and previous ownership service records, hand-written restoration records, itemized engine build notes, and the competition logbook.
A rare and innovative American sports car of unrivaled performance capability for the period, this Devin SS California-chassis prototype is ready to deliver all the history and motorsports glory reminiscent of a time when American racing ingenuity and entrepreneurship were fueled by grit and determination, competing against the very best in European sports cars.
The above vehicle information is complete and accurate to the best of our knowledge at the time it is posted to this website. Corrections or additional information is always appreciated. All advertised prices exclude government fees and taxes, any finance charges, any dealer document preparation charge, and any emission testing charge. Vehicles are subject to prior sale. All advertised to be true but not guaranteed. We assume no liability for errors or omissions.
Fantasy Junction • 510-653-7555 • 1145 Park Ave, Emeryville, CA 94608