The 1957 Devin SS collectible auto was designed by exotic-car dealer and race-car driver/builder Bill Devin.
Devin, like other enthusiasts in the 1950s, wanted to produce his own car. He had made a good buck selling cars -- Chrysler-Plymouth, later Siata V-8 and Ferrari -- and had made a reputation racing Crosley Hotshots and Panhards powered by highly modified twin-cylinder engines.
Devin teamed with Irish chassis engineer Malcolm MacGregor for a series of high-performance sports cars sold both as kits and fully assembled. The mold for the fiberglass body was pulled from an aluminum Scaglietti design for a single-seater Ferrari that had been adapted as a two-seater sports car on an Ermini (Fiat) 1,100 chassis.
Devin modified the body to fit MacGregor's state-of-the-art 92-inch-wheelbase chassis. It was fabricated of three-inch-diameter 14-gauge mild steel tubing for the main structure and two-inch tubing for the substructure at both ends. Equal-length tubular A-arms were used up front (later forged aluminum), complemented by a de Dion rear suspension with parallel trailing links.
Both ends utilized Woodhead-Monroe coil-over-shock springs. Brakes were Girling discs: 12-inch in front, 11-inch inboard-mounted units up back. Rack-and-pinion steering, geared to a quick 2.5 turns lock-to-lock, came from British Motor Corporation.
Stuffed into the engine bay was a stock Corvette 283 V-8 sporting a low-profile manifold to clear the hood. Road & Track tested a Devin SS for its July 1959 issue. That car had 220 bhp at 4,800 rpm and 300 lbs/ft torque at 3,000 rpm, a setup intended to be standard for all SS models.
It had Spaulding "Flamethrower" ignition and a rear-mounted generator driven off a pulley at the differential. Further, there was no fan, and the radiator was slanted back 40 degrees. A Borg-Warner T-10 four-speed stick shift and 3.70:1 rear gearing completed the drivetrain.
Inside, the driver found carpeting, bucket seats, and reasonable room. Stewart-Warner white-on-black gauges graced a dashboard designed for left- or right-hand drive.
Curb weight of the SS was 2,179 pounds, but R&T's car weighed 2,550 pounds as tested, 53.1 percent over the rear wheels. Even so, R&T judged the handling "neutral," the ride on the "stiff side." With just 11.6 Lbs/bhp, performance was exhilarating: 0-60 mph in 5.7 seconds, 0-100 in 16 flat, the quarter-mile in 14 seconds at 95 mph. The Encyclopedia of American Cars 1930-1980 quoted 0-60 in an even faster 4.8 seconds, 0-100 in 12.
This Devin SS was bought from Bill Devin himself by Ed Henning of Charleston, South Carolina, in 1988. During its two-year restoration it was fitted with a 1970s Chevy 350 V-8 with four two-barrel Weber carbs and an estimated 400 bhp. In 1990, the car took three first-place class wins in vintage racing in Colorado, at Road America in Wisconsin, and Road Atlanta.
Bill Devin ultimately left the auto business, but of the cars bearing his name in the 1950s and 1960s -- including a VW/Porsche-powered "D" and a Corvair-engined "C" -- it's the SS that's best remembered. Estimates place the number of completely built-up units at only about 15, but hundreds were built as kits. Luckily, a few still survive today.