The Davis Registry

Davis # 5

Davis 5 Photo GENERAL - Davis # 5 is the number that your Registry director has given to (1) the car photographed by Ray B. Hepler in California in 1953, and (2) the Davis car shipped to England to the Reliant Motor Company of Tamworth, which was later destroyed under customs office supervision. We think there is a strong argument for these two historical bits being one and the same car. There is not a single factor that eliminates the possibility of the two cars being one and the same. Indeed, the Hepler car was known to be owned by Mr. Davis, and he was a highly likely source that the Reliant Company might have contacted to buy such a car, in light of the publicity that he generated with the Davis. Another factor is the Hepler car's unusual grille, dash-gage arrangement and high side-trim location, none of which match any of the ten Davis 482-type coupes presently on the Registry list.
We proceed then by projecting the body serial number 482E59, a serial number we have not located in nearly 30 years of Davis research. This is one of only two Davis coupes ever to have had an open grille above the front bumper. This one is quite unlike the grille found on car # 7 in New Zealand and later removed. Examination of cars in ads and at car shows has eliminated any doubt in our mind that the grille on our feature car is from an English Morgan (ident='56).

HISTORY - This, of course, is probably the Davis with the most difficult ownership history to trace, since Mr. Davis is deceased and all efforts to get any information on the Reliant car have been fruitless. Our history is highly speculative:

Davis 5 Photo
Davis Motor Corp.1948-1949
G. Davis, Palm Springs CA1949-1953
Reliant Motor Co., Tamworth UK1953-19??

As reported in the Bob Stevens article "Owning a Davis", Cars & Parts, July 1984, p. 26, the late Vic Hyde was acquainted with a Reliant Motor Company official named Scott. Scott, charged with picking up the Davis shipped from the United States to Southampton, England, " .... where it entered the country under a customs bond, and drove it 200 miles to Tamworth, near Birmingham." "The car wallowed like an elephant," according to Scott, and "Reliant spent a year redoing the car, and when satisfactory, the company contacted the U.S. franchise holders. By then, though, the American group had disbanded and given up plans for producing the car." Scott reported that "We had to destroy the auto under the eyes of Her Majesty's customs officials".
The Davis community owes one if its greatest debts of gratitude to Ray B. Hepler, of Fullerton, California. Were it not for Ray, we would have absolutely no knowledge of this rare .... (yes, rare among the rarest!) Davis car, about which very little is known. In April, 1994, we received a letter and packet of pictures from California. The letter was as follows: " .... These pictures were taken in 1953 in east Los Angeles. My father had a wood-plug turning shop in the back part of Gary Davis' office and workshop. I was just home from the U.S. Navy, and came to my Dad's shop, and Gary was showing off the three-wheeler, so I took a roll of pictures. A co-worker of one of my sons had seen the pictures of the Davis car in the Old Cars Weekly News and Marketplace, (OCW Vol.23, No. 7, pp 14-15; ed.) and knew that I had some old photos of the one that the paper says was # 7, with the oval grille .... " Hepler later blessed our office with beautiful 8 x 10 copies of all of his pictures, as well as genuine half-tone masters, which we are using to grace this article. Our debt to Mr. Hepler is perhaps triple, as he did not just (1) take these pictures, and (2) make the effort of contacting us in the Davis community, but (3) he was so struck by the car that he took the time and effort to photographically document the car extremely well, photographing it from four different angles and taking not one but two good detail shots of the dash board. This effort on his part has laid the groundwork for our establishing a link between this car and the Reliant car, as well as generally helping to sort out the confusing #s 5-11-12 mess.

Davis 5 Photo FEATURES - Technical and other aspects of our feature car are derived from speculative research and examination of the Hepler photos.
Note in line 23 of the technical features chart the absence of buckles to hold the top in place, that is, as far as we can see. Regarding this point, it might have been helpful to query Hepler as to whether Mr. Davis had removed the car's top, or perhaps spoke of having done so. Repeated examinations of the 8 x 10 enlargements find absolutely no indication of top buckles, leaving us to conclude that the top may have been riveted or welded on, or fastened with metal screws.
The car's license number appears to be 1087-159, a black California plate. Detail of the hood ornament, probably not significant, is not sufficiently clear to distinguish source. The body condition appears to be excellent in the 1953 photos, with creamy eggshell-round curves and pencil-line thin seams. Beautifully-fit headlight doors must be factory originals, as with its near-perfect factory-issue bumpers. There is no hint of warpage where the Morgan grille was coupled to the Davis' nose shell, and there is no indication of any cooling opening at all under the front bumper. The two windshield wipers are "opposite-coupled", forties style, rather than rigged for parallel operation as are modern cars. Both right and left doors are equipped with a lock cylinder under the customary Lincoln pushbutton release. The car has no rain gutters, which could be a hint that, contrary to Davis Registry theory, this car was post-company hand-built from parts saved or scavenged by Mr. Davis, and rain gutters had not been found. The interior shot from the right side clearly shows (1) that there is no heater, (so car was built for California?) and (2) very slight passenger-compartment intrusion housing tells of probably Hercules engine under the hood, rather than the bulbous housing of late-model Continental # 13. But Registry archival photos of the Continental-engined 482 in Florida show no such huge housing but a floor-board firewall setup similar to the Hepler car. All bets are off as to the engine in this one! The dashboard-mounted inside rear-view mirror looks good -- a nice, low placement that does not obscure the driver's view. The absence of an outside driver's-side mirror harks back to a day of slower traffic and less regulation! The floor appears to be covered with a nicely-tailored dark carpet, .... perhaps black. The Ross steering wheel is a true 1939-40 Studebaker-cum-Davis factory-issue job, complete with bullseye center hub and full-circle horn ring.
Davis 5 Photo Most unique to the interior though, is the dash gauge arrangement. There is no perforation for the tachometer, that is the left, large hole. Only five gauge holes are there, apparently with the usual sequence (from left) of oil, temp, SPEEDO, amp, gas. On the top, and the door edge, rough fabric edges show, suggesting the headliner has not been completed, or at least it could not be sealed at the edge, since that is the job of the missing rain gutters, which in a ZEE form, edge the top and provide stop/seal face for the window when the door is closed.
For a further note on this car (perhaps), see "Going Under in LA" (Davis Registry Quarterly Bulletin #13). During our editing process and sorting of various inputs we first came across, the realization that the car in the LA Times May 16, 1950 clipping, by which Joe Charipar is standing, has the Airflow type grille, the same as the Hepler car. But the Charipar car is dark .... the Hepler car light. We tried to sleep on this, and were indeed in the hay at 3:00 AM when we had an inspiration! It suddenly occured to us that painting the dashboard of an operating car is a real ordeal, and likely a task that Gary would not bother with if he repainted the dark car. A leap out of bed and dash down to the editing/computer desk unveiled the truth in a re-examination of the Hepler shots. Sure enough, the Hepler car has a beautiful black shiny dashboard! So we now consider this car to be the one in Gary's possession at the company's closure, the one demonstrated at trial publicity time, and that it was sold to Reliant by Gary, where it was copied by engineers and eventually destroyed. Much of this cannot be proved, but most of it we can deduce. Though it seems unlikely that Davis would retain an "early" model (i.e.: 482E59), that lacked the engineering refinements found in later models, it is possible that (1) that just happened to be the car he had driven home on the day of the plant raid, or that (2) he had assigned this car to his wife Muriel for her own personal use, and so it was not seized by the officials. Remember, the factory video (film) shows Mrs. Davis driving a dark coupe with the top off, according to Gary's youngest daughter, who could perhaps verify with her mother the status of the family's personal cars when the company was closed. Although putting your Bulletin together is a big chore, it is the correspondence and investigative/detective angles such as this that make our work rewarding and enjoyable.

(All photos courtesy Raymond B. Hepler, Fullerton, CA)

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