1931 Invicta S-Type 'Low Chassis'

Launched in September 1930, the S-Type Invicta was one of the fastest and most desirable sports cars of its day. The company founded by wealthy enthusiast Noel Macklin with further financial backing provided by his friend Oliver Lyle of Tate and Lyle sugar concern produced a range of cars from the mid-Twenties culminating in the 4 ½ Litre S-Type.

 

Macklin’s aim was to build a car that was not only refined and very well built but was of high performance with reliability to match. Quite a quest but the fact that the majority of the 77 originally built are still being enjoyed all over the world rather validates his mission!

 

Its styling has been described as “traditional British sports car at its best”, with swooping external exhaust pipes and a low, low profile achieved by a chassis frame that was underslung at the rear and swept up over the front axle. Power came from a 4½ litre six-cylinder engine specially built for Invicta by Meadows of Wolverhampton. This was one of an exclusive handful of cars on the British market with a top speed of 100 mph, no mean feat in those days. This particular Invicta, dating from March 1931, is one of only a dozen S-Types out of some 77 built to have bodywork by Vanden Plas rather than the more commonly found standard coachwork by Carbodies.

 

Prior to the launch of the S-Type, Invicta had already made a name for itself with sporting exploits and world record breaking endurance drives on race tracks including Montlhery ad Brooklands. Indeed, in one of the most famous outings, Donald Healey won the 1931 Monte Carlo Rally in another car well known to this company and came second the following year.

 

Chassis S102 or ‘Sandfly’ was originally registered on the UK roads in 1931 to its first owner who resided in the Reading area, west of London. Typically cars from this era were laid up and stored during the war years and subsequent owners are listed as Rowland Smith and F.R. Walker, a relation of the Le Mans winning driver, Peter Walker. It is believed that around this time the original crankcase was replaced with the current unit, numbered 12371, noted to have been from the war department series which were known to be of sturdier and reliable construction than the ‘softer’ ones originally fitted.

 

Later owners are listed as Rowland Smith and F.R. Walker, a relation of the Le Mans Winning Driver – Peter Walker in the UK and at some point, we believe in those times, its original crankcase for the engine number 7515 was replaced with the current unit, numbered 12371 which is noted to have been of the war department series and were known to be of much sturdier and reliable construction than those originally fitted. Certainly by the 1950s and ever since it has been a right hand drive car.

 

By 1956 'Sandfly' was owned by Frederick Stahl who lived in the collector car mecca area of South Kensington, London. Mr. Stahl later went to the States and in 1966 he is still listed as a resident at Hancock Street in Boston. In his ownership the car was restored by Russ Sceli of Hartford, Connecticut and in 1971 it passed to a noted old car enthusiast and respected collector, Mark Gibbons of Cambridge, Mass.

 

Ever impressed by British cars, the rare sight of an Invicta in the US no doubt intrigued long term custodian Dean Edmonds who ultimately purchased the car in November 1982 from Mark Gibbons. In his notes, he records having used Sandfly only sporadically initially, and when he moved to the University of Western Ontario in 1990 he took this and other cars with him. In this period he built up a relationship with RM Auto Restorations in Chatham and when they reviewed this car, they felt its former restoration left a lot to be desired. He therefore commissioned a thorough rebuild with them to the highest aesthetic standards. To judge from the bills on file, that work began in 1991 and continued through 1994. Having experienced success at Pebble Beach in 1993 with his Bugatti, he returned there in 1995 with the Invicta, repeating with a First in Class win. 

 

After nearly 40 years of ownership the car passed to the previous owner who brought it back to these shores. Still looking magnificent despite some time passing since its concours success, S102 is a delight to drive and its ability to pull from low revs in top gear all the way without hesitation never fails to impress.

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