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SNAPSHOT 237: 1946 Invicta Black Prince

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.


One response to “SNAPSHOT 237: 1946 Invicta Black Prince”

  1. Robert Ruiz says:

    Happy owner of one Black Prince Saloon, the car is currently in restoration, only 9400 milles all original parts are there except for transmission, equipped since 1954 with jaguar 4 speed + overdrive. Now we are in the process of cleaning every single part and check amazing technology for the time, it has to be seeing closely to fully understand the complexity of the chassis, suspension and future gadgets for the time.

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