This is one of only 12 surviving examples of 16 built during the post-war renaissance of this famous pre-war marque.
Invicta was founded by Noel Macklin with finance from Oliver Lyle of the sugar family. The first production car used a 2½-litre Meadows straight six. The engine grew in size to 3 litres in 1926 and 4½ litres in late 1928. The most famous Invicta was the S-Type ‘Low Chassis’, launched at the 1930 London Motor Show – much sought after today.
In 1932 Invicta tried to widen their market appeal with the introduction of the 1½-litre 12/45, powered by a straight-six overhead-cam Blackburne engine. It was sadly too large and heavy for the engine. The 1933 supercharged version, the 12/90, improved matters, but few were made.
Car production finished in 1935 and Noel Macklin went on to found Railton at Invicta’s original factory in Cobham; Invicta had already moved to Chelsea in 1933.
The marque enjoyed some competition success. Violette Cordery, Noel Macklin’s sister-in-law, won races at Brooklands and broke long-distance records at Monza and Montlhéry. In 1927 Cordery drove an Invicta around the world, accompanied by a nurse, a mechanic, and an RAC observer, covering 10,266 miles in five months. In 1930 Donald Healey gained a class win in the Monte Carlo Rally, and won the event outright in 1931 with an S Type.
Such a distinguished name as Invicta would perhaps inevitably be revived – and this happened in 1946 with Invicta Cars of Virginia Water in Surrey. The Black Prince again used a Meadows engine, now a twin overhead cam 3-litre six with three carburettors. Power output was 120 bhp. Steel was impossible to obtain for such a small company after the war, so the cars were bodied in aluminium.
The car was ambitious, complex and therefore costly – about ten times the price of an ordinary family saloon. For a start, a conventional gearbox was replaced by a torque converter with the snappy title of the Brockhouse Hydro-Kinetic Turbo Transmitter, controlled by a small switch with forward and reverse positions. Top speed was quoted as 107 mph and it could hit 60 mph in 12 seconds – supposedly in either forward or reverse (don’t try this at home). Giles Chapman, writing in Motor Sport in 1997, gave a rare and damning assessment: “It sounded impressive but the thing was a pig to put into reverse and, once there, a swine to get out again.” There was more complexity: suspension was fully independent using torsion bars. The electrics were 24-volt: two 12-volt batteries worked in parallel for lighting and in series for starting. These also powered onboard jacks, heaters in the sump and water jackets and a trickle charger for effective winter starting.
With this combination of cost and complexity, and only 16 made, it is surprising that the company lasted until 1950.