It may be of interest to your readers to hear of my war-time experience of running a 1927 3-litre Invicta, a car which in my humble opinion merits more publicity than it even in Motor Sport.
The circumstances surrounding the purchase of this car are rather strange. The car, an open 4-seater, previously belonged to John Heal (brother to Anthony) and encountered complete disintegration of the differential assembly near Worcester. Instead of repairing it, Heal part-exchanged it for a 2-litre Lagonda, the garage concerned earmarking the poor old car for the scrapyard. I saw it whilst awaiting removal and was so impressed by the excellence of the workmanship that I purchased it on the spot, a cheque for £4 clinching the deal. This was in 1938. I managed to get a secondhand differential assembly (3.9 to 1) for a further £3 10s, so the old Invicta was made roadworthy for £7 10s. I can say without hesitation that it is the best investment that I have ever made. For those who may not be acquainted with the 3-litre Invicta here is a brief description.
The engine is a 3-litre de Saxe pushrod ohv Meadows, with detachable head and block and twin barrel-type Solexes. The chassis is a fairly light type with normal 1/2-elliptic springing. The scuttle and dash are both cast aluminium, and the car is comprehensively equipped with first-rate instruments. Here is the standard equipment: two independent fuel systems with remote-controlled cocks operated from the dash, magnificent Rotax lighting, and starting equipment with ammeter and voltmeter, oil and water thermometers, AT clock and speedometer, combined cigarette lighter and wandering inspection light and two engine inspection lights and a spare bulb rack. The whole car scales 25 cwt. The car was run for one month only pre-war, and there were three noticeable snags : the brakes were appalling, the oil consumption was high, and the prop shaft vibrated badly at over 50, found to be caused by a short-chassis prop shaft being fitted in the long chassis, allowing the splines to mesh for only 1 in.
At the beginning of the war, being unable to get into the Forces, I decided to attack the Invicta in earnest. I stripped the engine and carried out numerous jobs, including taking up all bearings and fitting Cord spring steel rings. These were in the nature of an experiment, and proved highly successful. In short, the car was put in good running trim as opposed to good condition by spending a lot of time and very little money. One month’s running showed that my labours were not in vain, but further motoring was curtailed owing to my acceptance in the Royal Navy.
However, in February, 1941, I was sent to the West Indies, and contrived to take the old Invicta. What a paradise ! Taxation by weight and unlimited gas. My fourteen months in those regions were made doubly enjoyable by the old car. It seemed to revel in the hot, humid climate, and the harder I drove it the better it went. Altogether I covered about 10,000 miles, usually with full load. The oil consumption was cut down from 400 mpg to 4,000 mpg by the Cord rings. Petrol consumption was 18-20 mpg, driving at any speed. The roadholding and steering were fair, there being general wear throughout all moving parts. The brakes were bad, in fact, very bad, partly due to the design and small drums, and partly to having 21-in rims and oversize tyres. The maximum speeds appeared to be as follows : top 80 mph, 3rd 65 mph, and 2nd 45-50 mph on the 3.0 to 1 ratio. The AT speedo flickered badly and read high, but my estimates are based on comparison with other cars, no rev-counter being fitted. Acceleration was very good, particularly at the top end of the range. The lighting, which of course was unrestricted, was excellent, and literally put the American types in the shade. Whilst in Trinidad I encountered only three snags : the rivets securing the crown wheel to the differential cage came loose and had to be replaced by bolts, oil found its way into the clutch, and the armature insulation of the Sims magneto melted occasionally, necessitating cleaning to prevent seizure.
Starting, both in English winter and in the West Indies, was magnificent, and was the best ever in my experience. The car created a considerable impression by its age, its performance, and its excellent workmanship, in a country where the American car holds sway. In the vintage class I saw only a 504K Mercedes and a 3-litre Sunbeam. I was unable to bring the Invicta home when drafted, and sold it to a naval lieutenant for 150 dollars. I hear that it has since been smashed up ; probably those brakes again. Curiously enough, it is the only 3-litre Invicta that I have ever seen, but it has given me the greatest pride of ownership, and a lasting respect for the marque.
The chassis number of this car was LC134, and it has been suggested that it may have been the car driven by Miss Violet Cordery. The registration book was number two, so this was no check. Perhaps readers may know.
I am, Yours, etc.,
FC Hanbury [Lt (A) RNVR]