1931 Invicta 4 1/2 Litre
Year of manufacture1931
Offered from The Alps to Goodwood Collection
1931 Invicta 4½-Litre S-Type Low Chassis Sports 'Simplon'
Coachwork by Carbodies
Chassis no. S90
In an era when most cars stood tall, the 4½-litre S-Type Invicta, with its dramatically lowered chassis, caused a sensation: few sports cars before or since have so looked the part. The Invicta Company's origins go back to 1924 when Noel Macklin and Oliver Lyle, both of whom had motor industry experience, got together to create a car combining American levels of flexibility and performance with European quality and roadholding.
Like the contemporary Bentley, the Invicta was produced to an exemplary standard. Price was only a secondary consideration, a factor that contributed largely to both firms' failure to weather the Depression years of the early 1930s. The final Invicta left the factory, appropriately enough, on Friday 13th October 1933, though a handful of cars was assembled at the company's service depot between 1934 and 1936. It is estimated that approximately 1,000-or-so Invictas of all types were made.
Apart from a handful of prototypes, all Invictas were powered by the tireless six-cylinder engines made by Henry Meadows. Launched at the 1930 Olympia Motor Show, the S-type featured an new under-slung chassis that achieved a much lower centre of gravity by positioning the rear axle above the frame rails instead of below as was normal practice at the time. Like most low-revving engines, the 4½-litre Meadows delivered ample torque in the lower and middle speed ranges. Indeed, the Invicta can be throttled down to 6-8mph in top gear, despite its relatively high 3.6:1 final drive ratio, and will then accelerate rapidly and without complaint when the accelerator is depressed.
The popular '100mph Invicta' tag notwithstanding, standard cars had a still impressive top speed of around 95mph with more to come in racing trim. However, it must be stressed that the S-type Invicta was primarily a very fast but comfortable high-speed touring car, its greatest attribute being an ability to cover a substantial mileage at high average speeds with no strain, either to driver or the machinery.
Invictas are about as indestructible in normal use as a car can be. Approximately 68 of the 75-or-so S-types built are known to survive and most are in excellent order, testifying to the fact that they have always been regarded as high quality motor cars. Indeed, in pre-war days there was a club dedicated exclusively to the model and members famously christened individual cars with names like 'Scythe', 'Scrapper' and 'Sea Lion'. 'S90' was named 'Simplon'.
'Simplon' was built in the early summer of 1931 and retained by the works as a competition car for regular Brooklands competitor Dudley Froy. In a letter to Motor Sport (June 1988 edition) A F Rivers Fletcher, who had first-hand knowledge of the works Invictas in period, says he believes that Froy's S-Type was completed using components taken from the car Sammy Davis had crashed at Brooklands. Although prepared for Dudley Froy, the Invicta was driven to a class win in the Ards TT on 22nd August 1931 by Tommy Wisdom and L Cushman, Froy having been sidelined with a broken arm. In October of that year 'Simplon' was driven in the BARC Closing Meeting at Brooklands by Mrs Wisdom.
At the 1932 Easter Norfolk Lightning Mountain Handicap, Froy lapped Brooklands at 108.03mph on his way to a brace of 3rd place finishes, and later that year at the Brighton Speed Trials the famous lady racing driver Mrs Kay Petre set the fastest time of the day. Froy then rounded off a successful season with a 4th place finish at Brooklands on 10th September. On 6th December 1932 Froy registered the Invicta for the first time, the number allocated being 'JJ 332'.
In 1933, 'Simplon' was offered for sale by William Arnold in Manchester (copy advertisement on file) and sold to dealer Jack Elliot. The car next belonged to David Lewis of London in 1936, followed by R Wyman, London in 1939. Major Granville Taylor then took 'Simplon' to the USA where it was owned by Hollywood superstar Tyrone Power.
Offered for sale by Lubrication Automotive Service of Los Angeles, California, the Invicta was next owned, from the mid/late-1940s, by John H Haugh of Tucson, Arizona. The car's next four owners were Charles P Smith of Tucson, Arizona (2nd January 1955); Edverne B Harrington of Phoenix, Arizona (30th January 1959); Walter H C Boyd of Toronto, Canada (April 1959); and Dr John Robson of Mount Pleasant, South Carolina (November 1985, bill of sale and CoT on file). There are two letters on file from David Lewis to Dr Robson, both written in 1988, concerning the car's early history, and another from John Haugh to Walter Boyd dated 21st August 1960 which relates the Tyrone Power connection (perusal recommended). Boyd was restoring the 'Simplon' at the time. As well as the aforementioned correspondence, there are numerous copies of in-period photographs on file.
During the war a Buick engine had been installed, and it was Edverne Harrington who replaced it with with current engine, '7411', which had left the factory in chassis number 'S33'. (The original engine's number is not known.) This engine was replaced in 2000 during the ownership of Dr Robson for the current engine numbered '7348'. A full report on the car's provenance, compiled in 2001 by marque expert Derek Green, is on file. By this time Dr Robson had relocated to the UK, settling in the Isle of Man where 'Simplon' was registered in 1999. In March 2001 he offered the Invicta for sale at a UK auction, and later that same year the car was acquired by the current vendor, a prominent private collector in Switzerland. Upon arrival in Switzerland the car benefitted from extensive work by well-known specialists Garage Portmann in 2002 and again in 2004.
Since then Simplon has been extensively campaigned throughout Europe, participating in prestigious events such as the Mille Miglia (2002, 2003, 2004); Ralllye des Alpes (2002-2006); Gran Premio Nuvolari (2003); Rallye Sanremo Rally (2003-2007); Grand Prix Suisse, Bern (2009); Rallye Solitude (2011); and the Gaisberg Hill Climb (2014). In total there are some 70 events listed in the massive history file, the last of which was the Invicta Tour of July 2019. Such a demanding schedule has required careful ongoing maintenance, and in 2011 extensive work was undertaken by vVintage car specialist David Ayre of Berkshire, UK.
The Low Chassis Invicta S-Type is now regarded as one of the most desirable pre-war sports cars, sought after by collectors for its exceptional driving abilities, style and sheer presence. A guaranteed entry at the most prestigious rallies, concours events and race meetings around the world, the Low Chassis has an enviable reputation amongst connoisseurs and examples are to be found in some of the most important private collections.
Should the vehicle remain in the UK, local import taxes of 5% will be added to the hammer price.