By Rebecca Drew
QUIRKY black and white footage showing a three-wheeled car being tested for Americans to get around in after WW2 has resurfaced this week.
The monochrome newsreel clips show a man pulling up in his vehicle, stepping out and removing the front grill to reveal the single wheel at the front of the sleek-looking motor. Further scenes show the car speeding down the open road and turning around in a neat circle.
The 14-feet long car, which was designed in Los Angeles, drives off into the distance as, Ben Grauer narrates the scenes from 1945 and describes the car’s best features.
“Presenting the height of modern design in new cars, this streamlined model, built in Los Angeles needs only three wheels thereby saving you one fourth of your tyre bill and offers many other economies,” said Mr Grauer.
“Fill up the tank and get forty miles to the gallon, tyres are five dollars each and detachable fenders are only four.
“Her fifty-eight horsepower, four-cylinder motor provides a cruising speed of sixty-five-miles-per-hour and a top speed of one hundred, pretty snazzy for weaving through that heavy post-war traffic.”
The United States produced more than three million cars in 1941 but only 139 more were made during the rest of the war as its biggest car manufacturers helped with the war effort.
Chrysler made fuselages, General Motors made aeroplane engines, trucks, tanks and guns. Packard made Rolls-Royce engines for the British air forces and the Ford Motor Company helped the production of the B-24 Liberator long-range bomber with one coming off the line every 63 minutes.
After the war, America started to stop producing war related items in favour of consumer goods. By the end of the 1950s, one in six Americans were employed either indirectly or directly by the car industry. By 1958, there were more than 67 million cars registered in the United States.
Three wheeled cars were cheap and practical to build when materials were in short supply immediately at the end of the war.
Records are incomplete confirming the make and model of the car featured in the newsreel but it seems to resemble the Davis Divan three-wheeled vehicles manufactured by the Davis Motorcar Company between 1947 and 1949.
In 1947, two prototypes were built of what was intended to be an economy car. The first was the Davis D-1 and then the D-2 which featured a removable hardtop. In testing the D1, it was discovered it could achieve tire marks of 13-feet when driving in a circle which demonstrated the vehicle’s impressive turning radius, like the car in the video.
In November 1947, the Davis Divan was publicly unveiled at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. Between 1947 and 1949, the Davis Motorcar Company produced 16 running vehicles which included 11 pre-production Divans, two prototypes and three military vehicles.