The Petersen Automotive Museum To Restore Ultra-Rare 3-Wheeled Car

Flickr Slideshow (click <21>) or Flickr Album

Los Angeles CA, May 17 2015 – The Petersen hosted a Japanese Cruise-in attracting more than 600 classic Japanese cars. Attendees got the opportunity to see the 3-wheeled Davis Divan in its unrestored condition: The Petersen is promoting their Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign to create a display-quality 1948 Davis Divan. The Petersen offers many perks for contributors and time is limited. Campaign details follow.

Despite the best efforts of post-war visionaries and pioneering automakers, three-wheeled cars have remained oddities throughout history. Even the most successful examples of the style — notably the recently revived Morgan 3-Wheeler — are looked upon these days as quaint.

1948 Davis Divan

This wasn’t always the case, though. In post-war Los Angeles, movie-car broker Gary Davis set out to do something different. The seventeen cars that his company built from 1947-1948 stand out even today as being unlike anything else. The Petersen Automotive Museum owns car number four, one of the few remaining operable Divans, and has launched a crowdfunding campaign to restore its Davis to museum-quality condition.

Davis History
The Divan is rooted in a prototype car called “The Californian,” built by Frank Kurtis (best known for his Kurtis Kraft Indy race cars) for millionaire racecar driver Joel Thorne. Gary Davis purchased “The Californian” and used it as the model for the Davis Divan. His assembly line was in a hanger at the Van Nuys Airport (coincidentally, also the eventual home of Petersen Aviation). The Divan featured either a 47-hp Hercules industrial four-cylinder engine or a Continental powerplant. The geartrain consists of a Borg-Warner 3-speed manual transmission and a Spicer differential.

1948 Davis Divan

The Divan’s body was formed aircraft-style out of aluminum and featured disappearing headlights. The car even had built-in jacks at each corner to facilitate tire changes. Passengers, rather quirkily, sat as many as four across on a single bench seat. Unpaid employees and broken promises culminated with Gary Davis’s conviction on theft charges. The company’s assets were liquidated to pay back taxes. Creditors unsuccessfully attempted to have Reliant manufacture the Divan alongside that company’s three-wheeled Robin.

Video Published by: Petersen Automotive Museum

Crowdfunded Restoration
The Petersen’s Davis Divan was the last to feature the industrial Hercules motor. The car spent the majority of its life in Colorado mounted on a pole outside a body shop. As part of the museum’s mission to preserve automotive history in Southern California and beyond, The Petersen acquired the rare Los Angeles-built car and got it running.

1948 Davis Divan

However, the Petersen’s Davis is far from museum-quality. Its engine and suspension need to be totally rebuilt. Also, the interior needs to be replaced; its current blue paint isn’t the original color and is flaking away. Because replacement parts are rare to non-existent, the Divan restoration will be labor-intensive.

1948 Davis Divan

The Petersen has launched a crowdfunding campaign to fund the project and hopes to drive awareness to this car’s unique history. This Indiegogo project was launched to raise the $30,000 necessary to restore the Davis Divan. The ultimate goal is to have the Davis fully restored to near-new condition by the museum’s grand reopening in December 2015. The car will receive a prominent position in the “Innovation” section of The New Petersen, on the second floor.

Video Published by: Jay Leno's Garage

To acknowledge participation in the Indiegogo campaign, the Petersen Automotive Museum is offering a variety of perks. Incentives are based on the level of support. These include an eBook on the Davis restoration, bumper stickers and T-shirts with Davis logos created specifically for the project, a curator-guided tour of shop where the car is being restored, donors’ names engraved on a commemorative plaque to be displayed with the car, an invitation to an unveiling party, and even rides in the restored car. (The Petersen Automotive Museum is a 501(c)(3) non-profit charity.)

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The museum has undertaken several restorations in the past, but crowdfunding represents a new approach to historical-vehicle preservation. For more information, please visit The Petersen’s Indiegogo 3-Wheeled campaign page.

Indiegogo Campaign 
Petersen Website

1948 Davis Divan

Donor Perks

$5 USD
Davis Restoration eBook: a digital book with hundreds of photos showing not only the history of the Davis, but the restoration journey along the way.

$10 USD
“I Built This Car” Sticker, featuring original Petersen Automotive Museum Davis artwork.

$25 USD
“I Built This Car” T-Shirt, featuring the original artwork.

$35 USD
“I Built This Car” Combo Pack: T-shirt, sticker, and eBook.

$75 USD
A Work In Progress: a guided tour of the in-progress Davis restoration, led by Petersen Automotive Museum Chief Curator Leslie Kendall. (Car is located in greater Los Angeles area. Transportation will not be provided.)

$150 USD
Plaque Combo Pack: T-shirt, sticker, and eBook plus recognition on a plaque that will be display with the Davis in the Petersen Automotive Museum.

$300 USD
Unveiling Party: Combo Pack, plaque recognition, and an invitation for two to attend an exclusive Davis unveiling party in Los Angeles (transportation and accommodations not provided). This level also includes a private tour of the museum.

$1,000 USD
Go For A Ride – Ultimate Prize: all of the perks above plus a chauffeured ride for two, sitting three abreast with Chief Curator Leslie Kendall. The rides will take place on the same day as the unveiling party (transportation and accommodations not provided).

About The Petersen - The Petersen Automotive Museum Foundation is a non-profit 501(c)(3) charity. The Museum is located at 6060 Wilshire Boulevard (at Fairfax) in Los Angeles, California 90036. For general Museum information, call 323-930-CARS or visit the Museum’s Web site at:

Photos by Randy Berg

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