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S-Type 'Low Chassis' Coupe
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  Invicta S-Type 'Low Chassis' Coupe      

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Country of origin:Great Britain
Produced in:1931
Numbers built:77 (All versions)
Designed by:Carbodies
Author:Wouter Melissen
Last updated:January 24, 2011
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Click here to download printer friendly versionA former racing driver and motoring enthusiast, Captain Albert Noel Campbell Macklin knew exactly what he wanted when he set up the Invicta Car Company in 1924. His objective was simply to build the finest British sports car, taking on the likes of Bentley and Rolls-Royce. For this ambitious plan he received further backing from wealthy industrialists Oliver and Philip Lyle.

Powered by a Coventry Climax sourced four-cylinder engine, the first Invicta was ready in 1925. It was soon after rebuilt with a Meadows straight six with a 2.5 litre displacement. Featuring a very long stroke, it produced a lot of torque, which was just the way Macklin liked his engines. In the following years the engine grew in size, first to 3 litre and ultimately to 4.5 litre. Although very expensive, the Invictas were well loved and successful on the track and during road rallies.

The company's most famous model was launched at the 1930 Olympia Show. Known as the S-Type, it sported a revolutionary 'underslung' chassis designed by Reid Railton. Its trick was the placement of the rear axle; instead of running underneath, it was mounted above the chassis rails. This configuration lowered the car as well as its centre of gravity considerably. Although this principle had been used before, the S-Type was the first production car to use an underslung chassis for performance benefits.

Even though the S-Type chassis layout was breaking new ground, the actual components were altogether more conventional. The chassis itself was of a ladder design with the legs swooping up at the front to clear the axle. This beam axle featured a semi-elliptic leaf springs and friction dampers. The live rear axle was similarly equipped. When fitted with a cycle fender body, the exposed sides of the S-Type chassis were dressed with louvred sill panels.

The S-Type shared its 4.5 litre Meadow engine with the NLC model a year earlier. Although larger in displacement, the OHV 'six' retained its redeeming feature; a very long stroke. With a 88.5 mm bore and a 120.6 mm stroke, it was well 'undersquare'. Early in its life, it produced around 115 bhp, which gradually grew to 140 bhp. The engine was mated to a four speed gearbox but Macklin believed only first and fourth were needed due to the massive torque available; top gear could be engaged at only 6 mph.

Like most sports cars of the day, the S-Type was available as a rolling chassis, ready to receive a body from a specialist coach-builder like Corsica or Vanden Plas. Invicta also offered a standard Tourer coach-work that was built by little known but aptly named 'Carbodies' of Coventry. This body was a straightforward cycle-fender four-seater roadster with a single door on the left-hand side. Among the car's more striking features were the Mercedes-inspired cowled exhaust manifold and the exposed rivets on the engine covers.

With its cutting edge chassis, the S-Type Invicta quickly proved to be a worthy competitor in a wide variety of events. Donald Healey (later of Austin-Healey fame) used one to score the second British victory in the Monte Carlo rally in 1931 and Raymond Mays (future founder of ERA and BRM) shattered many records at Brooklands in his car. Many examples were raced well into the 1940s in contemporary events and continued on in historic racing ever since.

The fast, well built and easy to drive Invicta S-Type had one flaw; its price, which was too much to bear for most in the early 1930s. Eventually only 77 were constructed before the company was forced to cease production in 1933. The cars that did get sold were cherished (many received nick-names) by the owners and only a handful have not survived. Today they are highly sought-after and regularly star in historic race meetings as well as concours d'elegance.

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