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356 Alternative: 1951 Devin Roadster

For anyone who has ever participated in amateur racing, whether as part of a track day at a local road course or via an SCCA group that hosts autocrossing events, you know that the range of hardware that competes is as varied as the abilities of the drivers themselves. When a young man named Bill Devin surveyed the sports car landscape in the 1950s, he decided an “everyman” version of the classic sports car was needed, and thus the Devin was born. Check out this 1951 roadster here on eBay with bids to $5,900 and the reserve unmet.

In the 1950s and 60s, a few aspiring racers decided to build the car they felt was best suited to competing and winning, and the Devin is a Porsche-powered testament to the power of garage engineering and DIY ingenuity. Bill Devin may not have intended to become a full-scale car manufacturer but the popularity of his builds and the lower operating costs associated with the VW-sourced running gear meant that he had plenty of work lined up. The interior and overall profile of the Devin screams Porsche 550 to me, just at a fraction of the price.

This Devin has been partially restored but there’s still plenty more work to be done. The listing notes that it will come with a Porsche 356B engine that has been loosely assembled and features a 356B “Normal” case. Most of the necessary parts to complete the engine rebuild are included, such as the crankshaft, cylinders, pistons, rods, heads, rocker assembly, and valve covers, along with early Zenith carburetors.  A few items are missing such as the oil filler and pulleys, so there’s more parts sleuthing to be done in order to put this Devin back on the road. It comes with brakes, gauges, Lemmerz wheels, and a steering box all sourced from a Porsche 356.

Some of that work pertains to the cosmetics as well, with the seller noting they have performed some fiberglass repairs, vapor blasted the body, and used a two-part primer called Duratec on the exterior. There’s more fiberglass work to be done, and the engine needs a proper rebuild. Looking at the Devin from this angle, there’s no denying it bears similarities to the classic 550 Spyder, but at a much different cost of entry. Where do you suppose bidding will end up for this rare ’51 Devin?


  1. bobhess bobhess Member

    Don’t know who’s kidding who on this one but the major rust underneath, the engine in pieces, and the poor work on the air intake and other areas gets the “junk” vote from me.

    Like 15
  2. RayT Member

    I’m just pulling this out of memory, but I do not believe Bill Devin was building these Ermini-inspired bodies in 1951. I’m not certain he had even built the first Devin-Panhard (a somewhat more bulbous design) at that time. I would guess this is from the late 1950s.

    This appears to be one of the bare shells he sold in a variety of wheelbase lengths. There was also a VW-powered Devin “D,” but I don’t think this is one of them.

    Like 6
    • bobhess bobhess Member

      Family friend had one of the early bodies on a Fiat chassis with a Mercury outboard engine in it. It was smaller than this unit and he raced it in SCCA’s Sports Racer class.

      Like 8
      • Rw

        How many skiers could he pull?

        Like 5
      • Derek

        1/ Stroker Mercury? That’d be fun. Used to work on a 4-cylinder outboard that was on the local Scout watersports centre’s fast rescue boat. The slow rescue boat was a diesel ex-lobster boat; equally fun, but in a different way.

        2/ Depends how many drinks he bought them.

        Like 3
  3. joehuff@zoominternet .net

    That shot of the VW chassis looks bad. St. Augustine FL is on the ocean, so there it a lot of salt water around there and in the air. Be careful of this one.

    Like 5
  4. H Siegel

    I really like this Devin. That said what you have is a mess that needs a lot of time and money. This is a purpose built race car so if you plan to restore it and drive it on the street many things will need to be added. There is probably no vin plate or registration. As I said I like it if I was going to buy it It would have to be cheap enough to restore it and do the work needed to make it street able. I’m sure it would draw a crowd at any car show. I hope the seller keeps in mind that rare doesn’t always bring big money. Sure would be a joy to bring out on nice days and scream the winding back roads. GLWTA

    Like 4
  5. Chinga-Trailer

    Basically, you will have a Devin when you replace everything you see here, so this is not so much a car as the idea that a real car can exist in the same space once everything is replaced. I don’t buy ideas – I have my own already.

    Like 1
  6. Bill McCoskey Bill McCoskey Member

    I first read about this car in a blog known as “Classic Virus”, [Notes about the other cars with white and gold colors referred to links in the Classic Virus post.] and this is what I wrote in commenting on the car:

    This is the same car [VIN is identical] to the Devin you featured in April 11, 2019 [White car pictured above]. The front end suggests it is a Devin “D” model. The “D” bodies were available for front engine cars as well as rear engine variants. The bodies with rear engines like the VW or Porsche had much higher & pronounced rear fender “hips” and a higher rear deck & lid to accommodate the VW type 1 and 356 engines, as seen in the photo of the gold car above. I’m pretty sure this body was designed for a front engine.

    Look over the car [and photos] very carefully, this car needs literally everything, with a huge amount of labor required. Looking at the photo of the engine in the car, the rear hatch opening doesn’t appear wide enough to remove the carbs if needed. That VW chassis is so far gone I would suggest replacing it with a later version from the late 1950’s or early 1960s, as [If my info is correct] the “D” didn’t come out until 1957. Sell the 1951 Type 1 chassis/pan to a VW collector who needs the hard-to-get early chassis and suspension parts.

    Not in the other comment:

    If I was much younger and wanted another project car, and somehow ended up with this vehicle, I would sell off the Chassis/pan as mentioned above, and sell off the Porsche parts to help pay for some of the restoration costs. A popular Devin kit car used Crosley chassis and drive trains. I would source a good Crosley parts car and place this Devin on the Crosley chassis, then after gathering enough aftermarket Crosley hop-up parts [the Crosley CIBA engine was easy to turn into a very good performing engine], I would build a Crosley-Devin. [BobHess might be more familiar with hopping up Crosley engines].

    Also, this car is missing the windshield, but if I remember correctly, the body was designed to accept a windshield assembly from a British MG-A.

    Like 7
    • bobhess bobhess Member

      Agree with most of your comment Bill but I think the Porsche 356 parts and engine make up most of the value of this car. The big work in retaining the 356 engine will be reshaping the rear deck to accomodate it. The VW pan makes doing most anything to this car easy.

      Like 4
      • Bill McCoskey Bill McCoskey Member

        Bob, I looked at the original listing photos carefully and it appears the original body was chopped up to try to conform to the VW pan, with terrible results. Even the molded-in original fiberglass firewall is missing most of it’s lower half.

        If I was to keep the current engine arrangement, I would probably install an early Type 2 bus engine, as it doesn’t have the tall airflow ducting.

        Like 2
  7. Lowell Peterson

    OK! Sell the ridiculously coveted ‘Porsche’ parts and put a built VW package including the pan. You will still have gas money and it will be on its way to nice! Just my experience talkin!

    Like 2
  8. Gsuffa Gsuffa Member

    Reserve not met at $12,700

    Like 0

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