years in the making the Melbourne-designed Devaux Coupé
is cast in the image of Europe's great pre-war classics.
into the cockpit of the Devaux Coupe, I was immediately transported
back to the golden years of motoring. Or to be more precise,
I felt a little like a WWII fighter pilot.
out in front of me was a vast expanse of heavily louvered
cowling, seemingly stretching off to the horizon. The low
seating possition, small doors, squat windscreen and Muirhead
aviation leather seats accentuated the aeronautical illusion;
the only things missing were propeller blades, machine guns
and a "tally ho chaps" from it's creator, David
is entirely appropriate given that, that is exactly the imagery
David has tried to evoke with his romantically styled, curvaceous
tribute to the cars of the pre-war era. Names like Bugatti,
Bentley, Alfa Romeo and Delage lit the flames of inspiration
for this unasuming 40-year old industrial designer from Melbourne.
unashamed admirer of the automotive designs of the '30's and
40's, David began working on his own tribute to their artistry,
extravagance and flair around 14 years ago.
up in England, the aspiring designer spent his childhood creating
his four-wheeled fantasies in pencil and then had his mother
mail them off to the Maserati factory. The staff there were
kind enough to send the enthusiastic youngster copies of automotive
publications in return - "although they were in Italian,
which was a bit of a nuisance", laughs David.
Clash family eventually settled in Australia and David persisted
with his design aspirations, completing a BA in Industrial
Design at Melbourne's RMIT. While he spent a few years working
for automotive design houses, his ambition had always been
to take his four-wheeled visions from concept to reality.
classics like an E Type Jag, a TR4 and even a gargantuan Pontiac
Parrisienne had at least fed his desire for exotic automobilia.
But it wasn't until 1988 that his dream car finally began
to take shape in a cluttered suburban Melbourne garage.
think one of the main inspirations for the Coupé was
the Bugatti 57 SC Atlantic. I just loved the lines; the look",
he says. "But the last one I saw sold for something like
$9m - obviously a little out of my price range. So I thought
if I can't buy one, maybe I can build something."
with a 2.5 Riley chassis, David crafted the dramatically sweeping
bodywork initially in plaster,
before taking moulds off the praster 'plug', out of which
he now makes fibreglass body sections and parts.
keeping with the early motoring theme, the prototype's powertrain
was derived from Jaguar, with a traditional 3.4-litre engine
mated to a Mark VII Moss gearbox.
up, the first Devaux (the name was derived from David's mother's
maiden name) Coupe accounted for close to 14 years of his
spare time. But it allowed him to fine-tune his designs and
experiment with various ideas, such as gullwing doors and
cutaway guards, that he tried and either incorporated or discarded
alond the way.
the first 'production' prototype took substaintially less
time to put together. In fact it was crafted from scratch
in a spectacular 5 months after David and partner, Lynn Bruce
raced to have it ready for this year's Australian Formular
1 Grand Prix.
were invited to have a production car at the Tattersall's
Historic Garage at the Grand Prix," explained David.
"We didn't have a lot of time, we had to get a bit of
help to complete it."
McInnes and Raz Hansen from Melbourne's Vintage & Classic
Garage were drafted into the side, as was David's father,
Frank and another enthusiast and friend, James Gillham.
similar to "the old girl", as David affectionately
dubs the original Flint grey Devaux, the newer production
model is conceptually a 'second generation' version, with
totally differently running gear and engineering. Having to
build the new car in such a short time spurred David to commit
to going full-time on his, up till then hobby project.
eventual limited production in mind, the drive train and other
parts were chosen on the basis of their availability as much
as their suitability. And, of course, the external components
had to fit in with the overall look of the car.
some ways, the earlier car was easier to build, because I
could go around and just rummage through parts bins to get
various bits and pieces," explains David. "But with
the new car everything has to be sourced with production and
suppy in ind. So we had to end up sourcing parts from all
sorts of places."
while many parts were existing items, a large part of the
Devaux remains hand-built, with much of that crafted by it's
designer. The distinctive chromed brass grill, buffed aluminium
window surrounds, body and myriad other items were all designed
and made by David, sometimes with more than a little help
from his friends.
new ladder-type steel chassis was designed and fabricated
on a special jig, of which hangs some more contemporary running
gear in the form of a 4.0-litre Tickford-tweaked Ford six,
rumbling through a 4-speed auto.
the rear is a narrowed Ford live axle in a fore-bar, Panhard
rod configuration with coil-over shock absorbers. Up front
is a very sanitary double wishbone suspension. The fully-adjustable,
coil-over set-up was supplied by South Australian company
front and rear, is achieved by very beefy, locally sourced
disc brakes. Wheels are also locally produced, 16-inch replica
Jaguar items, wrapped in Dunlop 215-70R rubber.
a unique car is not only a challage to the eye; just getting
in can require a bit of an effort to the uninitiated. At least
it was a challage to the physical dexterity of this writer.
One leg - and arm - at a time seemed to be the best bet, followed
lastly by the head.
Devaux leaves no doubt that it was designed by a driver, for
drivers. Seating possition is very much English sports car,
with the Motorlita wheel dominating the interior.
is - entirely in character - accomplished by pushing a black
button in the middle of the pseudo-timber dash, complete with
digital VDO gauges convincingly disguised to look like period
Smith pieces. The big engine is pleasingly throaty, although
I'd venture not enough to prevoke a roadside noise tester.
can forget about taking the dog and 2.5 kids for a weekend
jaunt in the Devaux. There is barely enough room in the parcel
shelf for the spare wheel, so it's strictly toothbrush and
comb if you are taking to the road if you are taking to the
road for more than a Sunday cruise. Not surprisingly, with
barely 500km on the clock since it was first rolled of of
David's new Dandenong factory, the first production Devaux
has the feel of a car that needs a few birth wrinkles smoothed
out. David was a pains to point out that the suspension and
ride were a little raw, but given the adjustability of the
quality components, it shouldn't be too long before all the
bugs are ironed out.
first thing you notice when you hit the road in a Devaux is,
well... how much you get noticed. It was like driving around
with a giant neon sign saying 'Go on, ask me what it is, where
it's made and how hard it goes!'. Which of course, is exactly
what half the population of Dandenong did the minute we rumbled
out onto the highway.
a Devaux is not for the faint-hearted or shy. You get noticed
in this car. Big-time.
the right foot and it's impressive power-to-weight ratio makes
itself felt. At 1125kg, the Devaux allows the big six to positively
lope along. David says the engine bay has been designed to
allow for a variety of powerplants - including V8's - but
the hairy-chested six seemed somehow more in - character for
this period-inspired beauty. Once fully sorted I'd expect
the Devaux Coupé to cut a fine line sweeping throught
winding country lanes.
and Lynn say they have had a big response to their website
- www.devauxcars.com - and are now well down the road to setting
up for limited production. Plans call for a quota of four
cars to be built each year as Individually Constructed Vehicles,
thus keeping them within the confines of current limited-build
down the track, they're talking about other variations, including
a convertable, and possibly offering the Devaux in 'High Build'
kit-car format, leaving the buyer to choose and fit their
own engines. Given
the exclusivity and uniqueness that comes with the Devaux
badge pricing is aimed more at the well-heeled.
couple have had hundreds of enquiries, with requests for information
coming from as far afield as India, the United Arab Emirates,
Europe and the US.
the response we had on our brief outing through suburban Melbounre
is any indication, the Devaux Coupé could be Australia's
next boutique car success story.
car that looks this good absolutely deserves to succeed.