How Many Davis Cars Were Built?

The Davis Registry For a long time now, the Davis Registry has embraced a theory expounded in its quarterly registration list, that (1) all Davis cars have been accounted for and (2) there were 15 vehicles built, including the three military vehicles. But all accounts from old factory sources indicated that seventeen cars had been built, without any note that the term "cars" even included any military models. We also admit to having been a bit smug, perhaps, to think that any car ever built, no matter how unusual, could be so well-thought of as to have 100% of its numbers survive, or at least be accounted for. It does seem a bit much. But it did seem simple, to wit:

1. The "Baby" is built. A hand-built prototype, it has no popular "Davis" name scripts. Serial number tags have not been produced.
First car.

2. The improved "Delta" hardtop is built, using popular lower-body dies. "Delta" scripts are used in non-popular locations, two on nose and one on center trunk.
Still no serial number tags.
Second car.

The first "482" (as Gary calls them in his engineering development report -- see Davis Registry Quarterly Bulletin #11, Spring 1996) is built, complete with new serial number tag, marked 482E39. It was easy to see that the "48" meant 1948, and that the 2 meant "second generation" of Davis cars, the "baby" model being the first. It was hard to know what the "E" meant, but we guessed at it meaning Hercules ENGINE. As we have observed or have firsthand reports on eight Davis serial number tags, (482E39, 482E49, 482E69 through 482E109 and 482AE139, we quickly deduced that the "9" was added on the end just to make the numbers more impressive, which left its predecessors as the true serial number of any given car. Armed with this information and inclination, it was also easy to deduce that Gary or his engineering honchos started with #3 (482E39), giving themselves numerical credit for the two 1947 prototypes mentioned here. Neat, huh? We cannot find a serial number higher than 13. How could it be that serial numbers 14 thru 17 all just happened to be vanished? So it all hung together fairly well:

1947 prototypes2
1948 Divans11
Davis ID tag image

It seemed like somewhat of a statistical long shot that the extant cars would fall into such a complete pattern, but we just added the three military vehicles to the 13 and figured 16 was a likely final production figure for Davis. This still doesn’t explain the report of 17 cars built, though there are other ways to organize this. What if Davis did start with numbers one and two, i.e.:482E19 and 482E29?


1947 prototypes2
1948 Divans13
Davis ID Tag Image

It is unfortunate that two cars have no serial number tags, nor any evidence that they had ever had one. They both clearly are late models, with their open-top air scoop grilles, and one with its exterior gas filler cap, making it difficult to plug them into those new theoretical #1 and #2 spots. And they just fit so neatly into that gap between 482E109 and 482AE139 . . . hard to argue with!

The three militaries are moot as to their numbers. They have no regular Davis factory tags, just stenciled-on designations, and are indicated as 484X1, 484X2, and 484X3, or later as 494X1 through 494X3. Were the three militaries renumbered to “stay current?” Were there more after 484X3? With the discovery of the first military coming only within the last couple of years, there could be more militaries, we just don’t know at this time.

We have also heard rumors that after the inventory of Davis parts was sold off from the bankruptcy proceedings, there may have been enough left-over components to complete another two or three more Divan sedans. Maybe, or maybe not. We would like to think that Gary Davis, working alone in the now deserted plant, designated the unbodied chassis as his “military prototype”, jumping to 484X1 through 484X3 for the first three he built.

AIR SCOOPs: In tracing the evolution of existing Davis prototypes one characteristic that groups earlier cars with those produced later is the grille or air scoop. In describing the cars listed throughout the Registry, you’ll note the grilles described as “full loop”, “closed loop”, “open loop” or “closed top”. This refers to the enlarging of the scoop or grille located below the front bumper from Davis #7 up through #13. Earlier sedans had a smaller scoop that was completely surrounded by body work. The later scoops eliminated this top section with the opening starting at the bumper base. This has been a helpful distinction allowing the Registry to place cars in sequence where a data or number tag is not present. The accompanying drawings illustrate the difference (click to enlarge).

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