Invicta 12/45 4½-Litre Tourer 1932
Chassis no. L66 (see text)
•Originally a 12/45 two-seat open tourer
•Restored to the highest standards
•Presented in excellent condition
•Up-rated and powerful 4½-litre Meadows engine
In its all-too-short lifetime, Invicta carved out an enviable reputation for building fine sporting motor cars, the larger Meadows-engined models in particular offering class-leading performance and impeccable build quality.
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 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 larger 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 successes in long-distance reliability trials, including a 10,000-mile 'around-the-world' trip by sisters Violette and Evelyn Cordery, who also completed a '30,000 miles in 30,000 minutes' trial at Brooklands.
In 1928, Invicta introduced a new 30hp model powered by the ubiquitous Meadows 4½-litre six. Early examples used the existing 3-Litre chassis, which was soon revealed to be insufficiently sturdy, resulting in the development of the 'NLC' (New Large Chassis), which first appeared at the 1929 London Motor Show at Olympia. Finished to Rolls-Royce standards, the NLC chassis cost a staggering £1,050 at a time when the average UK house price was £590! It would go on to form the basis of the famous S-Type 'low chassis' sports model: the '100mph Invicta'.
Like most low-speed engines, the Meadows six produced ample torque in the lower and middle speed ranges. Indeed, the Invicta can be throttled down to 6-8mph in top gear 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. Indeed, in 1930 the Cordery sisters drove their '30,000 miles in 30,000 minutes' high chassis tourer from London to Edinburgh in top gear. This same car was then driven by Donald Healey in that year's Alpine Trial, winning its class.
The 4½-litre Invicta had few equals as a very fast but comfortable high-speed touring car, its greatest appeal being an ability to cover big mileages at high average speeds with no strain, either to driver or the machinery. These Invictas are about as indestructible in normal use as a car can be.
For customers less concerned with ultimate performance, the company offered the 12/45. Introduced in 1932 and built to the firm's customary high standards, the 12hp 'Small Invicta' was an intriguing exercise in circumventing the ludicrous tax on engine capacity that dictated British design policy between the wars. Strongly built and well finished in typical Invicta fashion, the 12/45 used a 1½-litre, six-cylinder, single-overhead-camshaft Blackburne engine and was available with either tourer or saloon coachwork. Like its big 4½-Litre sister, the Small Invicta had a massive chassis with wide-set springs for maximum stability.
Referred to as chassis number 'L66' (logbook) and 'LC 66' elsewhere, the car offered here started life as a 12/45 with two-seat open tourer coachwork in red (see UK logbook). The car was delivered new to Bessie Mabel Robinson, changing hands in 1943 and again in 1950 and '51. It is understood to have received the 4½-litre six-cylinder Meadows engine early in its life.
Subsequently the Invicta moved to Germany where the German owner and his mechanics restored and re-bodied the car during the mid/late 1990s. The new aluminium-panelled, timber-framed body was constructed in the style of Carbodies four-seat open tourer. Finished in dark green with tan interior, it has received much care and attention to keep it in top condition.
Completely overhauled by recognised specialists LMB and Historic Competition Services, the engine has been rebuilt to the highest specification with a new steel crankshaft, special stronger connecting rods and pistons, new bearings, special camshaft, etc plus an up-rated clutch. The engine is very powerful (maximum output is estimated as around 180bhp) but at the same time extremely smooth and tractable, while the gearbox is a four-speed unit, fully rebuilt with special 'dog-engagement' internals to enable faster and smoother gear changes.
Since completion in 2000 this Invicta has competed successfully on several occasions on rallies including the Flying Scotsman and the Tulip Rally. Described as excellent throughout and a pleasure to drive, this delightful 'Post-Vintage Thoroughbred' is offered with current Belgian registration papers; a taxation report (dated 2014); sundry invoices for work carried out (mainly by Historic Competition Services and LMB); TüV document (dated 2009) and the aforementioned original UK logbook.
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