Kirkistown Airbase, Northern Eire, 1957—Right after the guys experienced chased the cattle off the tarmac, they turned to their work. The massive-bore straight-six from a Jaguar D-Style barked to lifetime, equipped in a chassis bare help you save for motor, controls, and a seat. The American drove off, and the two Ulster-born engineers stood with arms folded. The cattle watched and chewed their cud. Record, and heartbreak, had been in the making.
The chassis was chopping-edge. It had a 90-inch wheelbase and entirely impartial suspension all around—motorcycle-derived dampers and double wishbones up entrance and a de Dion rear axle with a restricted-slip differential. The brakes were Girling discs, the rears mounted inboard, and the engine sat aft of the front axle. The steering was rack-and-pinion, two turns lock-to-lock. It essential only a entire body to be the equal of the cars and trucks that raced at Le Mans.
The two Ulstermen had been Noel Hillis and Malcolm MacGregor. Each ended up experienced racers in their very own suitable, on two wheels and 4. The American was Bill Devin, a SoCal very hot-rodding and racing legend and a contemporary and pleasant rival to the likes of Dean Moon, Max Balchowsky, and Carroll Shelby. The chassis was a prototype. The partnership would go on to develop the Devin SS: a California-built human body, a chassis created in Belfast, and a 290-hp Chevy 283-ci V-8 less than the hood.
Fifty percent a 10 years later on, Carroll Shelby would deliver the to start with 289-ci slim-bodied Cobras. A Corvette-run Devin SS could try to eat a Cobra for breakfast, fried up with bacon, eggs, sausages, black pudding, potato farls and soda bread. Actually, that may well be a slight exaggeration, but the Devin was marginally lighter than the Shelby, a bit additional strong, and had additional accurate steering. Period of time testing displays the Devin SS achieving acceleration times as rapid as 4.8 seconds to 60 mph, about a next quicker than the Cobra.
That this form of planet-beating efficiency would hail from Northern Eire appears to be unlikely, but it truly is not. Norn Iron, as its folks contact the position, has normally punched previously mentioned its excess weight in motorsport. Check with Paddy Hopkirk about the tin of black-current market caviar he ferried from at the rear of the Iron Curtain while profitable the 1964 Monte Carlo Rally, or stand on the mountain at the Isle of Gentleman TT and see that the only statue there is of motorcycling legend Joey Dunlop, the King of the Roads. The individuals of Ulster are dazzling, blunt, stubborn, and fearless. They love calling practically every thing “wee,” and they adore going quick.
Hillis and MacGregor arrived from this inventory. Equally had been in the textile trade Hillis the operator of a corporation, MacGregor a direct engineer and personnel. The latter was a lot younger, but the males bonded about racing. Hillis was a dedicated enthusiast with deep pockets, possessing Bugattis and Maseratis, and successful the initial race held in write-up-war Eire at Ballyclare, in 1946. Malcolm started out racing motorcycles.
The two adult males considered they could develop a motor vehicle that could consider on the world’s ideal. Getting crafted the chassis, they despatched a letter to Monthly bill Devin.
At the time, Devin was the world’s foremost builder of fiberglass motor vehicle bodies. For the reason that of its later association with shoddy kit automobiles, fiberglass is at times regarded with disdain, but believe rather of Bruce Meyers and his Manx displaying up and placing records on the dunes. In the Fifties and Sixties, fiberglass was lightweight and helpful. It is really rumored that Meyers took inspiration and suggestions from Monthly bill Devin.
Monthly bill Devin was anything of a mechanical genius. As a boy, he constructed a go-kart out of a metallic highway sign and the motor from a gasoline-powered washing machine. He labored on the production line for the Douglas A-20 Havoc, and was a mechanic in the U.S. Navy through Environment War II, functioning on amphibious assault transports.
He owned an ex- Phil Hill Ferrari 212, which he raced in the early Fifties, and travelled to Modena with Luigi Chinetti, the founder of NART. There, Devin, uncovered the Ferrari 250MM he experienced purchased to race at Le Mans wasn’t prepared however. He purchased a unique Ferrari, introduced it again to the U.S., and eventually offered it, having a compact Deustche-Bonnet in trade. This he modified with bike sections, inventing the very first overhead camshaft timing belt in the procedure. He did not patent the know-how.
Devin Enterprises was shaped in 1954, and commenced marketing fiberglass bodies soon thereafter. The pattern was lifted from a Scaglietti-bodied tiny Italian auto termed the Ermini 357, and could be fitted to the frames of many vehicles from MGs to Fords. The enterprise grew, together with Devin’s status. His D Specials, which he equipped with 1600cc industrial-application Porsche engines, were being very effective in racing—until Porsche located out and instructed Devin’s supplier to cut him off. In the arms of racer AK Miller, Devin-bodied specials gained the Pikes Peak hillclimb 6 moments in between 1958 and 1966.
When Bill Devin returned from screening Hillis and MacGregor’s chassis, he was spattered with cow shite but up to significant doh, as the Irish would say. This was the foundation he had been on the lookout for to establish a ground-up vehicle with his identify on it. The adult men fashioned a partnership. A modified, 92-inch model of the chassis would be designed by Devonshire Enterprises in Belfast, then delivered to California to be fitted with Corvette running gear, with the engines modified with enter from Bill’s mate Dean Moon.
In April of 1959, Road & Observe protected the Devin SS. We wrote: “Devin’s plans are to create ample vehicles (150) to fulfill SCCA production needs. If this arrives about, the GT Ferrari and Corvette owners can kiss that first-position cup goodbye. Picture, if you will, the overall performance of a around 2000-pound motor vehicle (which the Devin is) with a 290-horsepower fuel injection Corvette engine.”
The Devin SS was a Cobra just before the Cobra. Although it was designed as a road car, some examples experienced good results racing against the likes of the Maserati Birdcage. There are rumors that GM acquired one particular and took it apart, seeking for clues to use to the next-technology Corvette.
But the SS wasn’t a monetary achievements. The cost, $5950, was much less than the autos finished up costing to make. Product suppliers like PPG demanded bulk orders that significantly exceeded what a tiny outfit like Devin could find the money for, and there had been delays. Hillis took a risky economical possibility, extending his other enterprises to pour funds into his enthusiasm venture. The engineering was there, but the advertising and marketing was not.
Devin Enterprises went bankrupt just as a huge shipment of chassis arrived from Belfast. The shockwave of the economical reduction echoed during Hillis’ firms, crippling them and wiping out his fortune. MacGregor sooner or later took an provide to work for Ford, the place he was fairly productive. Sixteen Ulster-created chassis in full, such as the prototype, ended up in the U.S. A handful additional remained in Europe. MacGregor managed to cling onto a single, but was never equipped to satisfy the aspiration of proudly owning a completed instance of the auto he experienced engineered.
Still many thanks to the perform of Devin enthusiasts Kevin Callaghan and Kreg Jones, that chassis has escaped obscurity. Just right before the COVID pandemic, MacGregor’s chassis was obtained from his estate and transported to Pennsylvania. Jones started the Devin registry a ten years in the past and is an skilled and historian of the marque. Callaghan not too long ago purchased the assets and legal rights of Devin Athletics Autos, LLC. He’s aided other Devin homeowners source alternative sections for their cars, and strategies to screen the Ulster chassis in his company’s showroom in Abington, PA.
Monthly bill Devin would go on to re-engineer the SS chassis and develop a several up to date illustrations in California. The Devin neighborhood at massive is open up and enthusiastic, but SS styles are worthy of considerable amounts, and thus, house owners have a tendency to be a little bit secretive. How numerous done cars and trucks exist, and their provenance, is a little bit difficult to navigate. But they are out there.
Right before the Shelby Cobra, there was the Devin SS. A sliver of automotive history, and a story of a aspiration slipping as a result of fingers. Three gentlemen standing in a disused airfield just exterior Belfast, grins on their faces, at the start off of a thing. What might have been. What was.
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