2015 Devaux Spyder
Devaux Spyder is a thing of oldtime style and beauty, a modern machine cloaked in the mystique of the 1930s and Monte Carlo summers a long way from the 21st century and Melbourne’s tram-tracked streets.
The first Devaux was a coupe, a glorious two-door tourer from the pen of Australian designer David Clash, drawing inspiration from French and Italian designers and coach builders of the 1930s. The low-slung, longtailed car, fashioned from GRP over a steel chassis, debuted in 2002 after a long and proper gestation.
It was a homage, David said, to the glories of 1930s’ automotive art, a blend of styling cues from the days of Bugatti Atlantics and such. This time with modern power from a 5.7 litre V8 and badged Devaux, his mother’s maiden name.
The Australian-built coupe caught the eye of enthusiasts from around the world; scored David an invite to Jay Leno’s garage. “But once that car was built the prototype and then production I realised there was a Spyder in there and thought that’d be fun,” says David. “Coupes are great but they’re small, they can get warm inside, where the Spyder is an open car, it’s accessible and a bit more friendly in some ways. The coupes are always a bit more mysterious.”
He saw he could make the convertible Devaux without changing much of the original mould, or changing major body parts, by removing the roof and fashioning a rear deck which dropped in as an insert in the mould.
While that idea worked well, and there were now two models of Devaux, the devil was in the detail.
“Then there’s obviously all the finishing for the screen. all the rails, drains and seals and all that stuff which is more of a challenge. It’s always the details. The Spyders are in some ways more simple but then there’s things not in my control, like trimmers for the hood. Stuff like that. I ended up, between the painter and the trimmer and various other things, I waited 11 months to get stuff done.
You can’t really build cars like that…I can imagine Hyundai scratching their head over it, waiting 11 months.” David laughs.
“A Spyder might sell for $200,000 plus but if you take the hours (into account) I think I’m down to about $5.50 an hour. I’m just slow I guess.”
Two of the eight Devaux built to date are Spyders. The blue car’s been sold into Queensland after a conversion to right-hand drive, the second was completed in early 2022 for another customer.
At close on five metres long, the rear-drive Devaux Spyder has a right royal road presence from the retro sweep of those front guards, louvered bonnet and stand-alone headlights through to the boat-tailed rear. It sits on 16-inch spoke wheels and Dunlops to suit with Panhard rod and coil-over dampers at the rear, adjustable double wishbones with coil-over dampers up front.
And with some 270kW and 470Nm delivered by the Chev V8 through a four-speed auto, the 1125-kilogram Devaux Spyder can be moved along at a fair clip. Yet it’s more the cruiser, an air- conditioned roadster loaded with fine and painstaking detail in keeping with the 1930s era. Wood trim and aluminium dashboard, analogue instruments and a wooden-rimmed steering wheel. There is a myriad of small ‘wow’ factors in the Spyder’s hand-crafted details.
Yet the second Spyder just completed may be the last of all Devaux. This one was a life-saver through Covid lock-downs, says David, and he was grateful for the job. But the business of trying to meet different engineering rules across Australian states, a lack of consistency with regulations, has complicated the building of special cars. “I’d consider another order, depending on where the customer lives. It does get a bit tricky now.”
He also found it problematic in trying to break into the North American market. His burgundy coupe (now for sale) and the blue Spyder were built to go to the United States. “We were going to take them on a bit of tour, try to crack the American market. Fantastic. But there are so many issues with getting cars into America. I perhaps should have gone down though I don’t like using it the kitcar route. I would’ve been a quite wealthy guy I think. But I was a bit arrogant and I wanted to control the build and the look of the car and so I made a rod for my own back.
‘Well, it’s going to have wire wheels whether you like it or not’ and, some guy’s going to say ‘put mags on it’ and the whole thing gets lost.” If David Clash started over, with a clean sheet of paper, he’d use more computer technology to design his Devaux, perhaps look at an electric platform and maybe tweak proportions a tad. As a designer you’re never happy…..that should be a bit longer, this could be a bit wider, that a little taller. That’s what car companies do, build full-size clay models in the studios push them out, look at them.
Sometimes they push them back in as quick as they push them out.” David sees some fantastic style cues, and some abominable, in current cars, and is always gratified when bystanders favour a Devaux over some modern European roadster parked alongside.
He understands he may be out of synch with some contemporary design but remains fascinated by art deco buildings, furniture and automobiles. He admires the work of 1930s coach builders such as Figoni and Saoutchik. “I do like that mysterious place of the 30s, a fun place. Art deco was such a big thing, that’s why it’s hung in the design world for as long as it has.”
And he took his penchant, and portfolio, of elegant retro designs with a particular pitch when he visited Leno’s garage.
“I designed a sort of retro car, a 30s’ car, a bit like a Devaux. My pitch was to get a wrecked Tesla, get the undercarriage and then build like a 1930s Alfa coupe. With big torpedo guards, all that sort of thing, and have a sound card. Have it like you’ve found it in a barn, with patina and that sort of stuff, and present it as if it’s just been discovered. And then reveal it’s an electric car.” He laughs again. For while David believes everyday transport options need to change for the sake of the planet, he thinks there’ll long be folk out and about with hobby and bespoke cars such as his Devaux Spyder.
Geoff Yeatman 1 month ago #
I saw a brand new Deveau Spyder today (7/2/23) in gun metal grey. Looked amazing and had just been delivered to the very proud owner. I was standing there admiring the details and could smell the brand new leather, even in the open carpark. What a sight to behold! I couldn't work out what the engine was though, definitely a V8 but it didn't look like an LS1 as I could see alloy rocker covers?? Anyway, very lucky to see one out and about :)