Bill Devin
The Man and his Cars
Part 2

As Henry Manney put it, "Oklahoma blew away, business blew away,... and the Devin family followed the trail to California ahead of the blowing sand and dust of Oklahoma in the Thirties."

Bill soon began working for Douglas Aircraft building and maintaining jigs and fixtures for aircraft production. He later moved to the flight line as a crew chief for A-20 Havoc medium bombers where he learned electrics, carburetion, structures, hydraulics and other aircraft systems and skills which were to prove invaluable to him in later life.

The Navy claimed his next two and a half years where he worked as a machinists mate and then as a motor mechanic responsible for maintaining landing craft in an assault transport unit. Obviously all this background and experience with motors answers the question of how did he get interested in cars. It was always there, and it was at this point that Bill Devin started to define his dream.

Out of the Navy in 1945, Bill went back to California with the goal of opening an automobile agency. He couldn't get financing from California banks so he began looking around for a more amenable state. He ended up in Montour, Iowa where he opened a Chrystler-Plymouth agency and two farm implement agencies and a Crosley agency. They proved to be successful but by 1949 he had grown tired of the Iowa winters and returned to California and opened a Chrysler-Plymouth agency in 1950. He brought a Crosley convertible with him and acquired a VW, some Peugeots, etc... He also purchased a new 1949 - 722cc Crosley Hot Shot in which he installed a Clay Smith cam.

Buchannan Field, CA. August 1951

This was Bill Devin's first sports car race as driver. He raced his Crosley Hot Shot against MGs and Jaguars in the Novice race.
This picture is Bill taking the checkered flag to record a win the first time out.

 Bill attended his first sports car race in Santa Ana which proved to be the beginnings of his obsession with sports car racing. Soon after, he headed for the tracks at Buchanan, Pebble Beach, Torrey Pines and Palm Springgs. Bill's brother, Gene, drove at the 1950 Pebble Beach race and two or three other races. That August, Bill began driving at Buchanan Field and won the novice race with his 722cc Crosley which qualified him for the main event. In the Main Event, he finished 5th behind Jack McAfee; driving a modified Jag 120, Jack Cannon; in his Cannon Special with a Ford V8, Bill Eserich; a 328 BMW and Bill Stroppe in an MG powered by a Ford V8.

Pebble Beach 1952

Bill Devin routinely vanquished the larger MGs with ease with his much modified Crosley Hot Shot.

Enthused by the Crosley successes, Devin looked to bigger and better cars. He sold the Fontana agency and linked up with the zany Ernie McAfee with a deal where Bill brought his money and his energy and Ernie did the selling of Siatas, Ferraris and other exotics.

Bill can't remember exactly how he got mixed up with McAfee. He does remember that Ernie had one of the now classic round drive-in restaurants which became the office and then put up a Quonset hut for the showroom. They ordered 25 Siatas for starters but just as quickly as the idea came about, it ended. McAfee backer, Bill Doheny, ended up buying the Siatas. Henry Manney and many others prominent in motor sports in the early Fifties immediately began to hang out at the Devin-McAfee place.

Ferraris had suddenly become a focus for Devin. To satisfy his recreational needs, Bill had bought and was racing the 2.6 liter Ferrari 212 that Phil Hill drove in the 1952 Carrera Panamericana. The remarkable fact is that Hill crashed the car during that same race and the crew cobbled it back together in enough time for Hill to finish 6th. After the race, the enterprising Devin picked up the car in El Paso, repaired it and soon had it back on the track.

Bill wanted to race at Le Mans so he ordered a new three-liter 250MM coupe and headed for Italy, with Chinetti, to get it. They picked up one of Briggs Cunningham's Fordillacs in Paris and drove to Modena to pick up the 250MM only to find that it would not be ready for Le Mans. Devin recalls driving to Le Mans in the Fordillac with a very young and frustrated Mike Hawthorn whose car for Le Mans was also not ready.

Bill hung around the Ferrari factory for a few weeks, and with his typical enthusiasm and about setting up a Ferrari for racing. He slipped over to Scaglietti and with Hans Tanner translating had worked a deal to convert redundant, 2.5 liter Formula 1 cars belonging to the Swiss racer Rudolf Fischer to two-seat sport racers. All of a sudden, Devin wasn't allowed in the Ferrari factory, as he was told no deals until Chinetti came back from Le Mans. Remember, in those days one didn't do anything Ferrari without Chinetti's blessing. Chinetti suggested that Devin convert some of the factory cars since Devin had already worked out the details with Scaglietti including body design and pricing.

Devin's 250MM still wasn't ready. He had also bought the ex-Porfirio Rubirosa two-liter Ferrari 166 and a 4.1 liter Vignale coupe driven by Simon and Vincent to fifth place at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1952. Devin paid up and went home to await arrival of the cars in the U.S.

Bergsttrom AFB, Texas 1953

On his way back to California after picking up the Ferrari from the port in New York, Devin stopped off at this race near Austin, Texas.
After racing the 4.1 Vignale coupe a few times, he sold the car to Masten Gregory.

He sold the 166 at the dock still in its crate. After a few outings with the 4.1 liter coupe, Devin sold it to Masten Gregory. Devin campaigned the 250MM in several California races and even provided the car to a budding Phil Hill, who won the main event at the Madera Road Races. A succession of cars followed, including OSCA, Porsche, Arnolt-Bristol and a strange little front-wheel drive car called a Deutsch-Bonnet (based on Panhard components) which provided Devin with his next adventure.