(Editor’s note: Brian Miller is co-chair of the Devin Registry.)
Driving a Devin C is not difficult, but it does demand your attention and respect in much the way riding a motorcycle does. You won’t be answering your phone or replying to any texts behind the wheel of the Devin.
Throttle response from the Chevrolet flat-six engine is smooth and turbine like with the dual Weber 44s gulping air. Somewhere around 3500 rpm ,the acceleration goes from grin to a laugh out loud.
The cockpit is wide and comfortable, though there could be a bit more legroom for those of us over 6-foot tall. The driving position and space inside remind me of a Porsche 914, and while the Devin is not plush, it is perfectly comfortable for the 100-plus miles of fun planned for this day of driving on the Monterey Peninsula.
Hustling the car through the Del Monte Forest, I scare myself coming in hot to a 90-degree left-hand turn, but my fear is unfounded as the Corvair-sourced drum brakes slow the 1,400-pound sports car. Flicking the car into the left-hander, the Devin remains planted as a squirt of throttle rockets it out the other side. Reliving a bit of 1950s road racer glory on these roads is a ton of fun, but luckily before I truly push the limits of sensible speed the road ends at a stop sign with a marker for the scenic route ahead.
When I launch onto 17-Mile Drive I’m definitely not pushing any limits as the tourist traffic has already arrived. In these slower conditions the best part of this car is the complete lack of roof and the amazing view and sense of freedom that provides. Sure, Devin offered a soft top, I have a brand new one still in the box. Never installed by the previous owner, or myself. That should tell you something about the joys of piloting this car.
When you drive the Devin C you are part of the environment. Unlike modern cars the sights, the sounds, the smells are not filtered out. They are part of the experience.
While later Devin C’s could be had with working heat and defrost, my car is one of the early prototypes so there are no temp levers or fan-speed adjustments to supply heat or distract from the driving experience. The only controls are three pedals, a steering wheel, and a headlight switch.
Since I’m running a speedster-style racing windscreen I don’t even have windshield wipers (windshield wipers were standard on the Devin C but removed on my car).
While the Devin’s six cylinder engine is happy to do slow-and-go duty in a way some high strung sports cars are not I find the 15 mph pace a bit boring. Luckily, there are several other classics on the road to keep me entertained, but it is time to get away from the parade of tour busses and hit the backroads.
I head away from the coast and hit California Highway 1. Unlike some classic sports cars, the Devin C has no trouble keeping up with modern traffic. However, the car is small so I need to remain alert to ensure other road users see me.
On the highway, driving in the thick of the power band is addictive. The Devin pulls like a locomotive between 60 and 80 mph, making short work of traffic when passing.
I head for Carmel Valley Road, which leads past several golf resorts to a quaint little village full of wineries and antique shops. Once past civilization, Carmel Valley Road twists and turns through wooded knolls before snaking it’s way into the mountains.
The Devin C’s light weight and flexible flat six are perfectly suited for for climbing the zigzag of the switchbacks. Near perfect visibility makes it easy to sight the apex of each bend. Corner entry speeds are not a high as in the Porsche Cayman I’d previously driven here, but the Devin C’s narrow tires and supple suspension never feel as nervous as the modern car either. The Devin C’s steering is a bit loose on-center, without the Porsche’s ultimate feel, but once committed to a corner the steering sets into the corner with no nervousness and the car simply blasts out the other side of the bend.
There’s a rollercoaster ride down the backside of the mountain with a pop and crackle on every downshift as the decreasing radius bends demand attention and respect. Around one corner I find an RV moving slowly with hazard lights on. As I slow to a walking pace, the biggest surprise here are the brakes. Never fading and always full of feel, the Corvair-sourced drums are the perfect match for the little Devin.
The driver of the RV edges slightly to the right and waves me past. I pull along side and they compliment the car and assure me they can make it to the spot a mile or two down the road where they intend to camp for the next few nights.
The Devin C and I make our way over a few foothills and then the road opens up to chase a winding river with cliffs on either side. The corners here are no longer tight but sweep in large arcs allowing the Devin C’s engine to breathe freely in the higher gears.
Then the road dives deeper into the narrow river crevasse and the corners constrict again as the road narrow once more. Few cars I have had the pleasure to drive adapt so perfectly to the fast sweepers and the tighter technical sections. It’s a testament to Bill Devin’s chassis construction and suspension integration.
Running along the north side of the river, the road undulates with the terrain edging every closer to the water’s edge before sneaking up on a river crossing over a single-lane bridge. Inexplicably, the road terminates on the south side of the bridge at what could not realistically be called a junction, more like a blind alley.
At the end of the bridge I see a new road with a sign indicating it joins with Highway 101 to the east. Keep going, or turn around and run the serpentine road in reverse?
Being behind the wheel of the Devin C, there was only one answer. Given the opportunity I think you would do the same. I just hope that RV isn’t blocking the road on the way back.