Classic Car Catalogue

Invicta 1931

4½-Litre A-Type  
4½-Litre S-Type – new model

Great Britain

4½-Litre Type S
Motor SportMarch 1931
Motor SportMarch 1931
Motor SportMarch 1931
The Story of a Car's Advance to Fame.

THE history of a sports car is a history of individualism. In other branches of industry the attainment of an ideal is always subject to the domination of more sordid considerations of production, appeal to the masses, and drastic economy of manufacture. In the case of any sports car worthy of the name these considerations must always be subordinated to the main idea of the designer to produce something which will fulfil a definite purpose with the greatest possible efficiency, and by introducing individual features embodying its designer's ideals, so create a new demand as well as filling one which already exists.
In the case of the ordinary motor cars which today fill so excellently the transport requirements of the age there is nothing outstandingly new in the performance or mechanism of the cars themselves. They improve in value, economy, and convenience, but to ride in one is merely to make use of one of the advances of this century, rather than to undergo a new experience or feel enthusiasm for hitherto unknown possibilities in motoring.
The breaking of this new ground is left to the enterprising few, who are never satisfied with things as they are, to exercise their imagination in setting new standards, and then to turn these standards into practical possibilities. To such a class belong the pioneers behind the Invicta car, which in a few short years has sprung from quiet but purposeful beginnings to the position of being able to boast of records and achievements unequalled in the world of automobiles.
Although it was not until five years ago that the first car bearing this name was put on the market, Capt. Macklin, who is chiefly responsible for the design and development of this marque has been, since long before the war a motoring enthusiast. His enthusiasm was combined with very exacting requirements of what a motor car should be able to do, and the way in which it should do it.
However the war put an end to all activities of this sort, and it was not until 1925 that Capt. Macklin commenced designing and experimenting with the Invicta. His aim in building this car was, above all things, to provide a really lively performance combined with extreme flexibility on top gear, as he did not see why it should be necessary to indulge in excessive gearchanging. The first of these models was a very snappy little car, having a wheelbase of 8ft. 4ins. only and its light weight gave it an excellent performance in the way of acceleration. Having a fairly low top gear of 4.5 to 1 the maximum speed was little over 65 m.p.h. but even this was good going for a car of its type in those days. Later, owing to the demand for increased body space on this model, the wheelbase was lengthened by a foot.
In the hands of Miss Violette Cordery, whose name has been associated with many of the best performances of the make in competitions, this car annexed numerous awards at Southport meetings and similar events. To demonstrate the top gear-performance many hills, usually considered stiff enough for trials work, were climbed on top gear. Pebblecombe in Surrey was a favourite venue for this stunt, and was certainly a difficult test for a top gear climb.
Following the 2½-litre of 1926 came the 3-litre model which will be much better known to most of our readers in view of the numerous long distance records which it set up. Many will remember the occasion on which the 25,000 kilometres record was put up to 89.64 kilometres per hour at Monza. This attempt was chiefly memorable for the crash that occurred during the attempt owing to one of the drivers falling asleep at the wheel. In spite of the damage to the car, repairs were proceeded with on the spot and the attempt was carried through successfully.
The 3-litre was on similar lines to the older car in the fact of being light for its power, and the larger engine gave it an even better range on top gear. This car had a 10ft. wheelbase and a 4ft. 4in. track, and one of its first appearances was the occasion of its attacking the 5,000 mile record under R.A.C. observation, and completing the distance at the remarkable average speed of 70.7 m.p.h. and for this performance was awarded the Dewar Trophy for the most meritorious observed performance of the year.
This success developed their enthusiasm still further, and Miss Cordery's next effort in this line was a round-the-world trip under R.A.C. observation, which further proved their reliability. This model continued until 1928 when preparations of the new model were complete, and the 4½-litre was introduced. This car, as might be expected, had a considerably improved performance, as the size and weight of the chassis was very little greater than the old model, though the actual frames and parts were suitably strengthened to deal with the increased power.
By way of demonstrating their confidence in this model, the first one was entered for another R.A.C. observed test in the hands of Miss Cordery. The proposed trial was to show that the car would average 60 m.p.h. or over for 30,000 miles on Brooklands track. Many experts considered the project to be mad, and said so, but Invicta Cars were not disturbed by these warnings, and in spite of suggestions that the distance should be reduced to increase the chance of finishing, insisted on attempting the full schedule. Everyone knows how effective the surface of Brooklands can be in disintegrating the best motor cars, but in this case it proved to have met its match, and the success of the Invicta is now a matter of history. The full 30,000 miles was covered at 61.57 m.p.h. and this without having to hurry over the last part of the test, owing to the time in hand.
This achievement gained the Dewar Trophy for Invicta for the second time, and it is a notable fact that, in spite of the comparatively short time this make has been in existence it is the only British car which has ever won the Dewar Trophy on two occasions. The writer drove this car shortly after this record and found that there was very little sign of the work it had gone through. It was later entered for the Austrian Alpine Trial when it was driven by Donald Healey and won the Alpine Cup for the best performanc in its class, and also made fastest time in the Arlberg Hill Climb. Healey was evidently impressed with its capabilities for this class of work, and drove it later in the Austrian Alford Alpehfahrt Trial of last year, when he succeeded in carrying off the Premier Award.
At the 1930 Olympia show a considerable sensation was caused by the introduction of the latest low-chassis 4½ sports model, one of the most striking cars exhibited, and something to make the sportsman's mouth water. The fact that its looks did not belie its performance has been demonstrated in startling fashion by Donald Healey's great victory in the Monte Carlo Rally when starting from Stavanger he came through successfully in spite of appalling conditions, and won the general classification prize in addition to numerous other awards, including the 5-litre class in the Mont des Mules Hill climb. This model was introduced primarily for fast road work under normal conditions, as its small clearance made it hardly suitable for the snowbound conditions of the roads in Northern Europe in midwinter. It was suggested to Healey that he should use the old 4½-litre which had served him so well in 1930, but he was so struck by the new model that he insisted on using it, and proved the soundness of his judgment.
Wonderful performance as this trial required from a car, it also required amazing skill and hardihood from its driver, and we had some interesting sidelights recently on Healey's powers of endurance. He is one of these people who shut up like an oyster when questioned on their achievements, but he cannot entirely conceal his prowess when he has witnesses in the shape of his crew to tell of their experiences! The fact that he appears able to drive indefinitely without sleep was demonstrated when he came to the works to collect the car shortly before starting out for the Rally.
Having come up one day from his home in Cornwall, he took over the car, presumably to go home that evening. On being asked his programme he said he was going up to London for dinner and a show first. The next day passed, and on the following morning he appeared at the works at Cobham before anyone of the firm was about, to have some things done to the car, before starting out. In the meantime it transpired that he had driven home to Cornwall after the theatre, got to work on the car and fixed up boxes for carrying picks, shovels, chains, etc., altered the exhaust system to give more clearance, and fitted an enormous pair of headlamps for the trial, which he found took so much current that another dynamo of heavier output would be needed. Therefore, he had driven up again during the night from Cornwall, and presented himself once more at Invictas, as fresh as paint, in spite of having completely missed two nights' sleep. Of such are Rally winners made!
His performance in the Rally was all the more remarkable in that the car completed the course in a considerably damaged condition. In crossing Norway he struck a more than usually slippery piece of ice bound road, and the resulting slide was only arrested by hitting a telegraph pole with a rear wheel with such force as to cut the nine inch pole off short. The car ended up over the stump with the pole alongside and most of the telegraphic system of Norway holding down the car itself. This might have deterred some people from further desire to go motoring, but Healey and his crew, having summarily dealt with the said telegraph system, and lifted the car off the stump and on to the road, made to proceed. The first effort revealed the fact that the brakes were permanently hard on, owing to that side of the axle being pushed back 2½ inches. Healey merely slacked off the brake adjustment on that wheel until it was free and proceeded, partly crabwise and with distinctly uneven braking, to win the Monte Carlo Rally and the Mont des Mules hillclimb. In fact, the chief reason he did not also win the acceleration and brake test was the fact that, owing to the considerable derangement of the braking system he had to start pulling up long before the end of the speed section of the test.
The great thing about an event such as the Monte Carlo Rally is the abnormal test to which every part and accessory of the car is subjected. It has to run day and night, without chance of adjustment or attention, under extremes of temperature. The Rotax electrical system deserves a special bouquet for its excellent performance, while the Halo brake linings stood up excellently under the abnormal strain of maladjustment due to the crash.
The remarkable success of this model on its introduction, in spite of mishaps which would have put a less robust vehicle out of action altogether, is bound to cause a big demand for this very attractive car, especially in view of its low price.

Motor Sport, March 1931

WHEN Invicta cars came to the 1931 Show with the new low chassis 4½-litre, the most blasé of motorists were ready to admit that here was something with distinct possibilities, with the reservation that these had not as yet been demonstrated. When, however, the next news of this model was that, in the hands of Donald Healey, it had won the Monte Carlo Rally against the best cars and drivers of Europe, it was generally realised that here indeed was something new in sports cars.
To produce a pretty looking motorcar which is amusing to drive under normal conditions is one thing, but to turn out a model which combines the handiness and "pep" so desired by the sporting motorist, with the toughness and thorough reliability necessary for the success this car has achieved, is something far rarer and more difficult.
Therefore, when Healey's car, after a brief look over to remedy the effects of his crash, but otherwise untouched, was handed over to us to try out under normal road conditions, we were confident of an interesting experience. Not only were we not disappointed, but the performance and behaviour of the car left us more than enthusiastic about this newcomer to a class which is all too small.
A motoring journalist is by nature a cynical creature, who only allows the good points of a motorcar to filter through a barrage of criticism. Now and then he is fortunate enough to drive a car which, by bringing a new exhilaration into his faded existence makes him forget his usual attitude, and experience once more the real joy of motoring.
The equipment of the car is extremely well and neatly thought out and this is specially noticeable in small details which save so much time and bother. The Remax bonnet clips for instance, were quite the best we have come across. Just a tap with the hand to open or close them, and they are absolutely secure. Certainly a small point, but it is such things that make or mar a vehicle in these days when motor cars are so greatly improved in their essentials that equipment becomes increasingly important.
The actual body on Healey's car was not a standard one, having been made in a hurry for the event. We have had an opportunity of examining the standard, body a very nice proposition, while for those who can afford a little more for their car will find the de luxe edition by Van den Plas a thing of beauty and convenience which makes it excellent value.
After the first run up through the gears to the accompaniment of a crisp but pleasant snarl from the exhaust we realised that this was one of our lucky days. Within a few miles we were completely fascinated with the acceleration, and became unable to refrain from occasionally "putting in their place" various drivers who thought they were getting off the mark rather well. The car is wonderfully small for a "4½" and gives that feeling of confidence which enables one to "chuck it about" without any difficulty. The Marles steering is amazingly light, without being too low geared.
As the general compactness and behaviour of the motor made us feel frolicsome we made liberal and continuous use of the gears, and, of course, the fullest performance can only be got by their use. We soon found however, that this was only one aspect of the Invicta. It is definitely not one of those cars where you must use the gears—far from it. Thanks to one of the smoothest and most flexible six-cylinder engines we have ever known to be fitted to a sports car, it is not only possible but very pleasant, to remain in top gear continuously.
Although top gear is 3.6 to 1, the car can be driven gently through traffic and round sharp bends at 10 m.p.h. and then by merely stepping on the loud pedal the car steams off the mark without a murmur and in a few seconds is cruising along at 50 or 60 m.p.h. At this speed practically no throttle opening is required.
It is this dual quality of silent speed and flexibility in addition to crashing acceleration when needed that makes this the sort of car that simply must be driven, even if there is nowhere to go. It would seem to make the one reason why it would be an expensive car to run, as to allow such a vehicle to stand in the garage when there was the slightest excuse for going out in it would be beyond the powers of resistance of most owners!
On Healey's car we found comfortable maxima on the gears to be 50 m.p.h. in second and 70 m.p.h. in third, while 90 m.p.h. was exceeded in top gear, at which speed the car was perfectly steady and could be held to any course with absolute accuracy. In considering the performance of this car it must be remembered that the engine has done well over 4,000 miles without being touched, and that these particular miles were under such conditions, largely in indirect gears, as to be equivalent to several times the distance in normal use, and some of the " snap " had gone out of it. There is no doubt that another 5 m.p.h. all round, together with even better acceleration, will be available after a top overhaul, or alternatively on a new car when run in, and an owner who is not satisfied with the performance then attained would, we are afraid, be beyond all hope.
Motor SportMarch 1931
Motor SportMarch 1931



  Event: Entered: Raced: Finished: Best results:
8-9.05.1931 Double Twelve 1 1 0/1 3 Field / Froy 4,467 c.c. nc  
24.05.1931 Whitsun Junior Long Handicap         G. Field 4,467 c.c. 1st  
19.07.1931 Irish GP Eireann Cup 1 1 1   George Field 4,467 c.c. 7th  
03.08.1931 Brooklands First Mountain Handicap         R. Mays Invicta 4,467 c.c. 2nd  
22.08.1931 Tourist Trophy   2 1   T.H. Wisdom 4,467 c.c. 19th Class C. 5,000 1st
03.10.1931 Brooklands 500 Miles             dns  
17.10.1931 Brooklands Ladies' Handicap         Mrs. T. H. Wisdom 4,467 c.c. 2nd  
  Event: Entered: Raced: Finished: Best results:
16-21.01.1931 Rallye Monte Carlo 1? 1 128 4½-Litre Donald M. Healey 1st  
30.07-6.08.1931 Coupe des Alpes 1 1 1 5 4½-Litre Donald M. Healey 1st Coupe des Glaciers 3000→ 1st

4½-Litre - zwycięzca Rajdu Monte Carlo.