FROM, CHRIS WICKERSHAM
“PINK ELEPHANT III” 1959 DEVIN
Built and Raced by Jim Chaffee, Mt. Baldy,
constructed this Devin Special in 1959 using an Austin-Healey chassis and
a Devin “J” body. Power was supplied by a modified Chevrolet 283 CI engine
with a Corvette 4 Speed transmission. A 3-2 bbl intake manifold was used
with Rochester Carburetors. Headers and Side Pipes took care of the exhaust.
The engine was offset to the right and set back for better weight distribution.
Healey frame, floor pan, steering, suspension, wire wheels, radiator, fire
wall structure and pedals were used. A custom dash panel was made. A Stewart
Warner Tach and gauges for fuel, oil pressure and water temp were installed.
Aluminum work separated the driver’s compartment from the trunk area. Aluminum
work was also used for the transmission tunnel. A custom fuel tank was
fitted into the trunk area.
A “Head Fairing”
was added to the body and the hood was modified to incorporate a scoop
for inlet air to the carburetors. The whole front of the body tilts forward
for easy access to the engine area. The hood is also removable for minor
engine service. A custom Plexiglas Windscreen was fitted to the cowl. Originally
a roll bar was built into the head fairing, but later a more conventional
roll bar was added. The car was painted PINK, as were Jim’s previous two
race cars and was known as “THE PINK ELEPHANT III”. The car had Pink Elephant
Graphics on the fenders. Jim even constructed a small enclosed trailer
with the same Graphics.
Jim raced the
car extensively from 1959 to as late as 1967. Thru the years, rear fender
flairs were added to be able to run wider wheels and the chassis was modified
to accept 1963 Corvette independent rear suspension. About 1967, Jim retired
the car, removed the engine, and put the car in the trailer. Sometime after
that He moved to Big Bear, Ca.
In 1984, Floyd
Garrett from Montclare, CA, tracked down Jim Chaffee and purchased the
car with the trailer. Floyd had known and admired the car for years and
saw the car many times at the races. As a young man, he would drive up
to Mount Baldy and go past Jim Chaffee’s house where he would often see
Jim in the garage working on the car. Floyd took the car home with the
intentions of restoring it.
He removed the
rear body work to get a better idea of what was involved in replacing the
corvette rear suspension with the original. He just set the bodywork back
on the chassis and stored the car in the corner of his shop with the idea
of getting back to it at a later date. After 19 years, Floyd realized that
he probably would never get around to doing anything with the car. Floyd
knew I was restoring a Devin Special and asked me to find a good home for
The car is complete
except for the engine. It will need a complete restoration but most of
the components appear to be in usable condition. The body work is all there
with the only modifications appearing to be the addition of the rear fender
flairs which appear to be aluminum pieces that are just added to the body,
and a rework of the hood scoop.
rear suspension needs to be removed and the frame would have to be reworked
to mount the original rear springs and rear axle. There appears to be NO
RUST present anywhere in the chassis or floor pan. The original dash with
switches and instruments are in place as well as the seats and seat belts.
All the front suspension and disc brake components appear to be complete
as well as the TWO radiators and oil cooler. I don’t know if a second radiator
was added after the car was finished, or if it was always there. It looks
like it has been there for a long time. All the hood, door and trunk hardware
and drive shaft are there. The shifter is a Corvette THREE SPEED that was
used for the forward gears with a separate lever for reverse. All of the
Aluminum work is there except for the drive shaft cover. Some of the Aluminum
is in poor condition but it is good for patterns. The horn, mirrors, voltage
regulator, coil, Brake master cylinder, clutch linkage and some of the
wiring is there.
The car is NOT
disassembled except for the removal of the engine, transmission and drive
shaft. The complete engine including clutch, bell housing, water pump and
generator is missing. The original intake manifold with two of the three
carburetors is there as well as the complete exhaust system.
The car is filthy
dirty but after it is cleaned up I am sure it would look a lot better.
Some of the original workmanship on the car is not up to today’s standards
as were most of the Specials from this period. I have been involved in
the restoration business for over 50 years and in my opinion this would
not be a difficult restoration because the car is so complete. This
is a known race car with complete owner history and would make a excellent
car for vintage racing and should be accepted everywhere.
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