Davis’ career in the automotive industry spanned from race car driver, factory worker and car salesman to ad salesman with Road & Track and copywriter for Corvette advertisements before becoming a writer for Car and Driver magazine in 1962. He wrote for Car and Driver until 1967 and later became its editor and publisher from 1976 to 1985 before leaving to found Automobile magazine. When Automobile was acquired by Primedia, he became the editorial director of the company's Motor Trend magazine. He eventually left the company and went into semi-retirement. In recent years, Davis had returned to Car and Driver as a columnist after helping to get pioneering digital auto magazine, Winding Road, off the ground. He had won nearly every great print title in the American auto journalism world. Time magazine called Davis the "dean of automotive journalists."
Davis had a race car accident at age 25 which left his face severely disfigured and required extensive plastic surgery. In 2004, he delivered a speech at the University of Michigan which drew a standing ovation. Regarding the accident, he said, “I suddenly understood with great clarity that nothing in life — except death itself — was ever going to kill me. No meeting could ever go that badly. No client would ever be that angry. No business error would ever bring me as close to the brink as I had already been." He often described the incident in speaking engagements and columns as thoroughly life-changing, and says he was "born again."
As a family man, he leaves behind his beloved wife, Jeannie, a daughter and two sons.