Searching For an Alternative
By Bruce McCulloch
The 1960’s and the 1970’s were quite simply a wondrous time for enthusiasts. Especially for those who were looking for a classic British drop-top and in light of such, MG, Austin-Healey, Triumph and others offered vehicles which sated those sports car addictions.
The problem is, very few current British manufacturers have been able to succeed at creating anything with a similar philosophy, or additionally, the impact of those great originals. Let’s be honest, if you’re looking for any sports car that is truly British, you’re going to be sorely disappointed. Even the all-encompassing Aston Martin isn’t a real ‘Brit’ anymore, neither is Rolls Royce, nor Bentley and if you’re absolutely determined to find something all-English, you’ll end up with TVR, who happens to make some of the most unreliable vehicles on the earth (and who also happen to be going down the toilet). The Morgan, of course, is an English motoring icon, but many of its components come from somewhere else at this point. The Morgan certainly qualifies as maintaining the intent of the British sportscar, but it was in a sparsely-populated category of just a few cars until recently.
Anyhow, you’re taking on a Herculean task at finding a real British sports-car these days, but that doesn’t mean you won’t find some others, like the Morgan, that at least genuinely invoke the true spirit of the British sports-car.
With that segue, I bring you the brand-new ‘Invicta S1’ – a car which just might fill the appetite of any true British sports car enthusiast. The first question might be, how so? Well, resurrecting an old brand is always a interesting (and sometimes effective) way to bring the customers in and as Canadian-born Tony Stelliga resurrected Marcos; wealthy businessman Malcolm Bristow has invested his own money into ‘Invicta’ hoping to recreate the glory days of a company which went bankrupt in 1933.
The original origins of this company hark back to 1925, when Sir Noel Campbell Macklin (a British racing driving hero among other things) decided he wanted to create a vehicle which would not only encompass the history of the British, but also a vehicle which would match the best of them from America. With that in mind, and with the able assistance of his sister-in-law, Miss Violet Cordery, Sir Macklin was able to push Invicta to many glorious achievements. With Cordery at the helm (who was a talented driver herself) of a 3-litre Invicta racecar, the Invicta was able to break a total of four world records and thirty-three Italian racing records at Monza (for their respective category).
With that being noted, you would expect the newly released ‘S1’ to carry the tradition of the brand’s heritage and I honestly think they’ve done a splendid job at doing so.
Bristow explains he was always a fan of the marque and its stylish S-Type sports racer and in order to recreate the glory days, he wants the ‘new’ Invicta to live up to their original slogan: “The Most Wonderful Performance in the World”.
In order to do so, Bristow knew he needed a car which would not only serve it’s purpose as a performance vehicle, but also as a grand tourer – something which would truly live up to the 4.5 litre ‘Tourer’ of 1928. With that, the requirements for a GT (especially an Invicta model) demanded good visibility, good ergonomics; a large trunk, a large fuel tank, as well as ground-breaking technological features which enhance its performance. The Invicta rebirth project officially started in the mid 2000’s, and by the time late 2006 arrived they had completed a vehicle which they believed was worthy of the original name plate.
For starters, the S1’s designer (Leigh Adams) was asked to reach back into Invicta’s heritage and style a car with timeless lines and classic cues, but of course – easier said than done. Without a doubt, the S1’s design provokes mixed reactions. Some love it and some don’t, but for the record – I reckon it looks pretty damn excellent.
I’m not sure what the majority of car enthusiasts will relate it to, but British car magazine EVO was quoted as saying it looked like “a melted Aston Martin”. Without a doubt I can see what they’re talking about. The whole vehicle seems quite reminiscent of the ’99 Aston Martin Vantage 600. From a rear-end point of view, there’s most certainly a degree of current-generation Maserati coupe, and, did you happen to notice that the tail-lamps come directly from the last-generation Volkswagen Passat?
The interior is yet another styling aspect of this car which will invoke different reactions. Evident is the attempt at recreating the ‘classic British GT’, but what is also noticeable is the use of the outsourced Ford air vents which grace the centre console. Nonetheless, it’s got everything you need (and probably want) in a GT car. Items such as a: heated front and rear window screen, electric windows, Recaro seats with electrical operation and heating, SatNav and Radio/CD are all standard on the S1.
One thing that’s guaranteed to deceive automotive enthusiasts who haven’t seen the Invicta in person is the sheer size of this vehicle. In photos it all looks rather normal – rather Porsche 911-sized. However, it isn’t. The side-to-side size of the car is just huge. Just as an example, due to the enormous width of the S1, Invicta can easily modify the rear bulkhead for an extra two seats for customers who wish to travel four-up.
When I say “enormous width”, just how enormous is it, you might ask? For comparison, the Invicta is a few inches shorter than a Porsche 997 Carrera S in terms of length, but at 84.0 inches wide across the back, the Invicta is not only wider than most other cars on the market, but also wider than most cars, period. A 997 Carrera is a mere 71.2 inches wide, a Porsche Carrera GT is 75.6 inches in width and even the Lamborghini Murcielago (which is considered among the widest of roadcars at 80.4 inches) is easily covered by the massive rump of the Invicta. This could be Sir Mix-a-Lot’s favourite ride.
Now, as I mentioned in a previous article, I feel that one of the major reasons for the various bad things that have been happening with TVR is the philosophy of keeping them ‘all-Britannia’ (i.e., no outsourcing). With that criticism in mind, I am glad to see that Bristow has done much outsourcing, but unlike some of the others in this segment, not for the sole reason of saving every penny. The outsourcing contracts which have occurred have all been given to companies which high credibility and well known quality, and have not been awarded on a “low-bid” basis. For instance, the gorgeous 5-spoke alloys have been outsourced by an Italian company by the name of ‘APP’ – this well respected firm also makes the alloys on the Pagani Zonda F (a mid-engine, 600bhp Italian exotic). Meanwhile, the big braking system has been outsourced from well known ‘AP’, who has customers like Aston Martin, etc.
The determination to bring only high quality to Invicta’s customers is further evident to the discerning observer as the entire body of this vehicle is made from carbon fibre and consists of an inner and an outer moulding; meanwhile, the floor pan and under tray combined with the bulkheads have all been built as a single massive component. The carbon fibre itself has been bonded to a steel space frame chassis consisting of 40mm square section steel tubing; including a tubular steel roll cage which allows a complete chassis weight of only 160kg. The entire production process ensures the chassis has super rigidity and light construction. In fact, Invicta boasts (and rightly so) that the British government stated that the S1 has the strongest chassis they’ve ever tested.
With that being noted, Invicta says the S1 is a super-lightweight GT. Still, at 1,380kg it isn’t exactly all that lightweight. On the positive side, it’s a good 40kg lighter than a Porsche 997 Carrera S, but sadly a massive 140kg heavier than a Wiesmann GT, another specialty sports car manufacturer.
This leads us to the next important aspects of the Invicta, the performance. For starters, there are three different models which one can purchase – the ‘S1-320’, the ‘S1-420’ and the ‘S1-600’. One thing that is guaranteed for all three is that you’ll be getting the same 4.6 litre V8 you find in the Ford Mustang. Such an engine was chosen as it boasts good reliability, excellent parts availability, it is just about burst-proof and you have the possibility of various tuning levels. The base model, (the ‘S1-320’) gets you exactly what the name suggests – 320bhp and backing that up is a hardy 300lb-ft of torque, all available down low if you want it, like most American V8 engines. With such power combined with its low kerbweight, Invicta claims 0-60 in just 5.0 seconds dead and with that, there’s no doubt this car will have no problem fighting off something along the lines of an Aston Martin V8 Vantage. If one feels such power to be insufficient, the doughty ‘S1-420’ and ‘S1-600’ have the added advantage of a supercharger and in turn, turn out 420bhp and 600bhp respectively – with the latter running 60 mph in just 3.8 seconds.
So, yes, this car sounds marvellously engineered; and very fast, but is it like a lot of specialty cars that require the driver to be a contortionist? Well, according to Sports Car International magazine, quite the opposite, except for some small positioning problems. Apparently, ingress to the S1 is just as easy as any other car; although unfortunately they felt the pedals were set up for drivers with extremely small feet (hey, just like the British cars of the Sixties!) and the fact that the super-wide transmission tunnel forces the driver to sit just a bit canted to the side detracts a bit from the driving experience. On another downside they felt the gas and the brake pedal are a little closely coupled together. This is definitely sounding more like a British sports car from the past, eh?
On the road though, they thought the S1 felt solid and extremely strong and even though they thought the width was intimidating, they were quoted as saying the handling was superb; the nose goes were you want and regardless of being power assisted, the steering feel was great and accurately weighted. They also praised the chassis which they thought was quite compliant and didn’t jiggle over bumps. All in all, when you’re driving quickly, it helps to have a car underneath you that was obviously built to be a confidence-inspiring GT car.
Aside from a few ergonomics issues it’s clear that the S1 is an alluring all-purpose coupe in standard fitment, and as stated before, if you want a bespoke 2+2, none of the attraction goes away. My biggest issue with the S1 is the MSRP (tax included) which starts at a whopping £106,000 for the S1-320 and £150,000 for the S1-600. Nonetheless, I think it’s an enticing car worthy of attention, particularly if want stunning performance that is coupled with a unique name and appearance.
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