Raymond May behind the wheel of his Invicta Type S 4 1/2 litre Low Chassis Tourer by Carbodies competing in the Shelsley Walsh Hill Climb, 1932 Raymond May behind the wheel of his Invicta Type S 4 1/2 litre Low Chassis Tourer by Carbodies competing in the Shelsley Walsh Hill Climb, 1932

Invicta Motor Cars

example Invicta successfully Sold

1932 Invicta 12/45 Tourer
1932 Invicta 12/45 Tourer

Invicta Cars Limited

The Invicta Car Company was the creation of Captain Albert Noel - later Sir - Campbell Macklin, a highly respected English motoring enthusiast and former racing driver.

Learning from earlier attempts at manufacturing motor cars such as the Eric-Campbell and Silver Hawk he became inspired by the desire to offer motorists effortless performance.

Backed by his neighbours, Oliver and Philip Lyle - of Tate & Lyle sugar fame - and Earl Fitzwilliam, previously of Sheffield-Simplex, Macklin intended to build a robustly engineered car with enormous torque that demanded little or no gear-changing, as requested by Mrs Eileen Lyle.

He was also determined that it should offer European standards of roadholding and handling, while matching the best of American cars for strength of construction and engine power.

The Invicta's appeal was undeniable: low lines, handsome square radiator and bonnet with rivets clearly visible. Though the prototypes were fitted with 2.5 litre Coventry-Climax six-cylinder engines, production cars used the Meadows ohv 2.6 litre six which produced the right performance.

In this form, the Invicta began to fullfil many of its founder's dreams and the 2.5-litre model went on sale priced at - 595 pound sterling- body extra, as was the custom at that time.

Although supplied with a four-speed gearbox, most Invicta owners were expected to use just first and top, such was the flexibility of the engine.

Engine capacity was increased to 3 litres in 1926 and to 4.5 litres in 1928, by which time the Meadows engine had been coaxed to deliver 100bhp.

There are probably not more than one or two other makes of car in the world that can compare, for acceleration, with the 4.5-litre Invicta Sports and no car with a comparable performance in top gear.

This 4.5 engine had such enormous reserves of torque that drivers could select top gear at just 6 mph and accelerate cleanly and rapidly all the way to its 90 mph plus, top speed.

Disregarding vehicle cost, Macklin insisted that the quality of Invicta cars should match Rolls-Royce and their performance should challenge Bentley.

Early in the marque's life, Macklin was confident that those two goals had been met, so the Invicta became the only other British car to have a three-year chassis guarantee, just like Rolls-Royce, and to highlight the car's remarkable combination of performance and durability, a series of endurance runs was undertaken.

Miss Violet Cordery - Macklin's sister-in-law - was a talented and tenacious driver. Piloting an Invicta she set record-breaking performances in Britain, France, Italy and around the world.

In Paris, her 3-litre Invicta averaged 70.7 mph during an RAC-observed 5,000 mile endurance run. In Italy, she broke four world and 33 Italian records at Monza. In 1927 she made a round-the-world trip at an average speed of 25 mph.

With her sister Evelyn, she covered 30,000 miles in 30,000 minutes averaging 61.57 mph for almost 21 days driving a standard 4.5-litre Invicta tourer at Brooklands in 1928.

The public began to loose interest in endurance runs and Macklin knew that Invicta had to compete on the race track and in rallying. It did both with considerable success.

Standing in for the scheduled driver at the last minute, motoring writer Tommy Wisdom completed 30 laps of the 13.75 miles road-racing circuit at Ards in Northern Ireland to win his class in the 1931 running of the famous Tourist Trophy race at an average speed of 70.04 mph.

At the 1930 Olympia Show a considerable sensation was caused by the latest low-chassis 4.5 sports model, one of the most striking cars exhibited and something to make the sportman's mouth water.

Later, in 1930, the 4 litre became available in two types: the high chassis and the graceful low chassis 100 mph car with underslung chassis.

The Invicta S-type generated 158 bhp and went on to notch up a string of class wins on circuits and hillclimbs during the following seasons.

In rallying, Donald Healey borrowed Violet's 3-litre record breaker for the 1930 Alpine Trial and won his class. Next year, despite crashing shortly after the start, Healey and his Invicta survived to win the Monte Carlo Rally outright, the first time a British car had won the event.

The Invicta was always sold only in chassis form, and it is thought that Macklin, advised by his designers Reid Railton and William Watson as well as Donald Healey - one of his employees - took care of the cars image.

Every component, from the radiator mascot, chrome headlamps, gearchange and handbrake levers, to the quick-action fuel filler and winged mascot, should project a masculine message.

The origins of the beautiful enameled badge are not clear, but the Invicta name relates to the White Knight of Edmund Spenser's 16th Century allegorical epic romance The Faerie Queen.

However, by the mid-1930s, the Invicta's days were numbered, despite the undoubted excellence of the product.

Faced with the effects of the world-wide depression and shrinking demand for his cars, Macklin cut prices dramatically but refused to compromise the Invicta's much-admired engineering standards, build quality or workmanship.

This was not before efforts had been made to offer a more popular confection: the 1932 12/45 with an ohc Blackburne 1.5 litre engine. A supercharged version, the 12/90, was announced the following year, though it achieved little success.

Meanwhile Macklin had become involved with the Railton project and sold out to Earl Fitzwilliam: three new Invictas were announced for 1938, but these cars were nothing more than re-bodied Darracqs and the project was still-born.

The Invicta name was revived after World War Two, the Black Prince model being designed by W. G. Watson, who had been responsible for the original Invicta of the 1920s. The new car was a vehicle of some complexity.

The engine, based on a Meadows industrial unit, was a dohc camshaft 3-litre. Power was transmitted by a Brockhouse hydraulic torque converter without using a gearbox.

All-independent suspension by torsion bars was featured and the whole package was offered at 3.000 pounds, though by the time production ceased in 1949 the price had spiralled to nearly 4.000 pounds.

The remaining spares were purchased by AFN Ltd. on the collapse of the enterprise.


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2½ Litre SC & LC
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4½ Litre NLC, A Type & S Type
1½ Litre 12/45 & 12/90

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