1931 Invicta 4½-Litre S-Type Low-chassis Tourer Coachwork by Carbodies Registration no. GP 8096 Chassis no. S46 Engine no. 7423 (see text)
'The low chassis Invicta was probably the best-looking sports car in the vintage tradition ever to be produced in England. I can think of no contemporary unsupercharged motor-car of similar capacity, made here, which could outperform it - and very few built elsewhere...' J R Buckley, 'The 4½-litre S-Type Invicta', Profile publications, 1966.
In an era when most cars stood tall, Invicta's 4½-litre S-Type, with its dramatically under-slung chassis, caused a sensation: few sports cars before or since have so looked the part. The origins of the company known as Invicta Cars go back to 1925 when Noel Macklin and Oliver Lyle, both of whom already had motor industry experience, got together to create a car combining American levels of flexibility and performance with European quality and roadholding. Like the contemporary Bentley, the Invicta was designed by men with backgrounds in competition motoring and both were produced to the highest standard. Price was only a secondary consideration, a factor that contributed to both firms' failure to survive the Depression years of the early 1930s. Like Bentley, Invicta struggled against rising costs and falling sales, the final car leaving the factory, appropriately enough, on Friday the 13th of October 1933, though a handful of cars was assembled at the company's service depot in Flood Street, Chelsea between 1934 and 1936. It is estimated that approximately 1,000-or-so Invictas of all types were made.
Apart from three Coventry Climax-engined prototypes built at Macklin's home in Cobham, Surrey, all Invictas were powered by the tireless six-cylinder engines made by Henry Meadows. Invicta cars quickly established a reputation for outstanding durability, bolstered by the award of the RAC's coveted Dewar Trophy in 1926 and 1929, largely for the marque's success in long-distance reliability trials, including a round-the-world trip by sisters Violette and Evelyn Cordery.
Launched at the 1930 Olympia Motor Show, the S-type's 'under-slung' chassis achieved a much lower centre of gravity by positioning the axles above the frame rails instead of below as was normal practice at the time. Just about the only thing the S-type Invicta had in common with its contemporary stablemates was the 4½-litre Meadows engine, which was also used for the 'NLC' and 'A' models. Like most low-speed engines it produced ample torque in the lower and middle speed ranges. Indeed, the Invicta can be throttled down to 6-8mph in top gear - despite its 3.6:1 final drive ratio - and will then accelerate rapidly and without fuss, still in top gear, when the accelerator is depressed. The acceleration figures given by the contemporary motoring press speak for themselves on this subject.
The popular '100mph Invicta' tag notwithstanding, standard cars had a still impressive top speed of around 95mph, with more to come in racing trim. However, it must be stressed that the S-type Invicta was primarily a very fast but comfortable high-speed touring car, and though it met with moderate success in racing in the hands of private owners in the early 1930s, its greatest appeal lies in an ability to cover big mileages at high average speeds with no strain, either to driver or the machinery. Raymond Mays, writing of the two Invictas he owned in the early 1930s, says that they gave him some of the most exhilarating motoring he ever had, with their ability 'to crest most main-road hills at nearly the century.'
The Cordery sisters having driven a 3-litre Invicta around the world under RAC observation, with no failure apart from an axle half-shaft, it was not considered necessary to prove the S-type by subjecting it to further examinations of that kind. Instead the company concentrated on entering the cars in the most demanding long-distance trials in the motoring calendar, achieving notable successes. The Austrian Alpine Trail was chosen as a suitable test and the S-type duly excelled in this arduous event, Donald Healey twice winning a Coupe des Glaciers for Invicta as well as the 1931 Monte Carlo Rally. Later, the S-type took the International Sports Car Record at Shelsley Walsh hill climb and, by way of variety, the Mountain Circuit lap record at Brooklands in 1931 and again in 1932, courtesy of Raymond Mays.
Invictas are about as indestructible in normal use as a car can be. Over 70 years after the last was built, approximately 68 of the estimated 75 S-types built are known to survive and most are in excellent order, testifying to the fact that they have always been regarded as high quality motor cars. Indeed, in pre-war days there was a club dedicated exclusively to the model and members famously christened individual cars with names like 'Scythe', 'Scrapper' and 'Sea Lion'.
This Invicta S-type, chassis number 'S46', retains its original Carbodies coachwork, body number '2606 18431'. The car's history can be traced back to July 1956 when it was owned by a Charles Hull of Bourne, Lincolnshire, followed by David Gardner in 1957 and then Peter Sheridan of London in 1958. It was acquired by Alexander Patrick's father from Sheridan in April 1966 and thus has been in the family's ownership for 46 years.
While in Peter Sheridan's care the Invicta and its driver featured in an article on men and their cars in, we believe, Vogue magazine (November 1965, cutting on file), the large rear tyres and non-original wings being evident. The article states that Sheridan bought the car eight years ago (tying in with 1958) but had to rebuild the engine when it threw a rod outside Copenhagen. The engine now has the crankcase of a Lagonda LG6 (number 'LG6/435/S4') while the rest of the unit appears to be from the original (number '7423').
'Three twin carburettors' are mentioned in the article (the engine is fitted with triple Webers) while also on file is a photocopy shot of the Invicta taken in 1940s/50s showing the wings as they are today. They obviously went on the car early in its life. Photographs from the 1960s show 'GP 8096' as having the non-original wings and larger rear tyres. It is assumed that it had the triple Webers as well. In addition, there is a letter on file, dated March 2004, from Tage Schmidt of Denmark to Jo Moss of the Invicta Car Club. Schmidt knew Peter Sheridan in the mid-1960s and was trying to track down 'GP 8096'. Schmidt recalls how Peter used it in the 1950s/60s as his everyday transportation and also for long journeys on the Continent.
Recent work has included overhauling the water, fuel and oil systems; plus drive train to include a gearbox rebuild, shock absorbers, brakes and flywheel. Over £25,000 was spent on the foregoing, which was carried out in 2008-2009 by Cedar Classic & Vintage Cars (Invicta and Lagonda specialists). The interior was re-trimmed recently in red leather.
MoT certificates on file (14 in number) record the mileage increasing from 8,390 in 1973 to 1,301 in May 2012 when the most recent was issued, a total of only 2,911 miles in 39 years (the odometer 'rolled over' at some time during the 1990s). The history file also contains an old-style continuation logbook (issued 1956); correspondence with the Invicta Car Club; listing of other chassis numbers: sundry museum correspondence; and Swansea V5 registration document. 'GP 8096' is taxed and MoT'd to May 2013.
The 'Low Chassis' Invicta S-Type is now regarded as one of the most desirable pre-war sports cars, sought after by collectors for its exceptional driving abilities, style and sheer presence. A guaranteed entry at the most prestigious rallies, concours and race meetings around the world, the 'Low Chassis' has an enviable reputation amongst connoisseurs, and examples are to be found in some of the most important private collections.