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LOT 331

1931 Invicta 4½-Litre S-Type 'Low Chassis' Sports 'Seagull' Coachwork by Freestone & Webb Registration no. GT 48 Chassis no. S86 Engine no. 7481 (see text)

Estimate: £700,000 - £800,000
Lot 331
1931 Invicta 4½-Litre S-Type 'Low Chassis' Sports 'Seagull'
Coachwork by Freestone & Webb Registration no. GT 48 Chassis no. S86 Engine no. 7481 (see text)

1931 Invicta 4½-Litre S-Type 'Low Chassis' Sports 'Seagull'
Coachwork by Freestone & Webb

Registration no. GT 48
Chassis no. S86
Engine no. 7481 (see text)

• One of an estimated 77 S-Types built
• Present ownership since 1975
• Restored in the 1980s/1990s
• Invicta Club concours winner
• Guaranteed entry into the most prestigious events worldwide including the Mille Miglia


The vendor first encountered this S-Type Invicta in the early 1970s when it was part of the collection belonging to the late C J S (Jack) Wilson of Caterham, Surrey. Jack had retired from marine insurance some years earlier and was a well known, if eccentric, figure in the area. He devoted his time and energy to his collection of Vintage cars, which at the time I first met him included five Bugattis and no fewer than three S-type Invictas. Jack Wilson had bought the Invicta in 1952 from the Alton Garage for £275. At that time the car was in reasonable and useable condition, although its subsequent 100,000 miles around the streets of Bexhill, when Jack lent it to a GP friend for his rounds, had taken a considerable toll. There had been a rear-end collision which destroyed the back of the handsome and original Lancefield drophead coupé body, while the front wings had been replaced by those from a scrapped Mark VI Bentley.

There are several original letters on file from people wishing to buy Jack Wilson's cars, which make interesting reading. Alton Garage's 1952 bill of sale is on file also together with an old-style green continuation logbook in the vendor's name and a current V5C document.

Having bought the car from Jack Wilson in 1975, the vendor was able to rewire the electrics and fit some makeshift cycle wings so that it could return to the road. The engine, though useable, was completely worn-out, developing 5psi oil pressure when stone cold and zero when hot. Amazingly, the Invicta even managed to complete the 1976 VSCC International Rally centred on Harrogate, Yorkshire.

All this is in stark contrast to the car's exotic and romantic early life. The first owner was the Baron von Treeck, a German aristocrat living in Mayfair and Luckington Manor. That indefatigable Invicta historian, the late Douglas Irvine, was somehow able to trace von Treeck's valet, Denis Kington. He had started aged seventeen as a boot-boy below stairs at Luckington Manor and had slowly risen in status. The Baron was an enthusiastic huntsman and rode with the Beaufort Hunt. Kington's early years were spent polishing his many pairs of leather riding boots.

Just before the outbreak of WW2, the Baron suddenly departed for Germany in the Invicta, leaving most of his possessions behind but taking his valet with him. He said goodbye to Kington in Germany and gave him a railway ticket back to England and a new German 35mm camera as a present. Sadly, this was confiscated by UK Customs in Dover because Kington could not afford to pay the Import Duty.

Many years later it was discovered that the Baron was a German spy and had been in England to make contact with the many Nazi sympathisers within the aristocracy. Much more on von Treeck can be found in Anthony Cave Brown's books, particularly Bodyguard of Lies. His ownership of 'S86' is recorded in the membership list of the first Invicta Car Club, which existed for only a few years in the mid-1930s.

By the 1980s it was clear that 'S86' needed a restoration which would have to include new coachwork as the old Lancefield body was now beyond repair. The body was removed the restoration of the chassis and running gear commenced. All spring trunnions and steering joints were refurbished, shock absorbers reconditioned and new wheel bearings fitted throughout. The gearbox and back axle were rebuilt also.

At that time it was fashionably to install Lagonda Sanction III engines in S-Type Invictas and it was decided to take the opportunity to do this. A second-hand Sanction III Meadows engine was purchased and completely rebuilt by Neve Engineering in East Sussex. The rebuild included all new bearings, connecting rods and pistons. This is the engine that is currently in the car. The original engine is preserved in a packing case and is included in the sale.

The vendor's intention was to commission new coachwork along the lines of the standard works
2/4 seater tourers when the most extraordinary coincidence occurred. His late wife had for many years collected paintings and drawings. One day she was in a gallery in Petworth and got chatting to the proprietor. On asking her to sign the Visitors' Book, he recognised her name and the conversation turned to Vintage cars. The vendor's wife mentioned their intention to have a new body made for 'S86', at which point he said "Oh! I've got a body for an S-type Invicta which you can have if you like".

Despite the unlikelihood of this (there were only 77 S-Types made and no spare bodies) it turned out to be true. The gallery proprietor was Jeremy Wood, nephew of the Invicta doyen, Bob Wood. Jeremy had been aware that the famous Invicta 'S68' belonging to Colonel Buckley (featured on the cover of the Profile publication on these cars) was being re-bodied locally and he was able to save the old body: a most attractive three-position drophead coupé by Freestone & Webb. This coachwork was completely restored by James Pearce & Co in Wisborough Green and, of course, fitted precisely on 'S86' without the need for any modifications. There are photographs of 'S86' as a rolling chassis, prior to the fitting of the Freestone & Webb body.

Bills for the restoration are on file together with invoices for further works and servicing carried out by Neve into the early 2000s. Since 2004 maintenance has been entrusted to West Hoathly Garage. Major works billed for include: a thorough overhaul and tidying in 2004 (£10,000) and a major service prior to a Continental trip in 2015 (£5,000). While in the vendor's ownership 'Seagull' has completed many, many miles of trouble-free motoring, including several trips to south-west France and back, and has been a class winner at the Invicta Car Club's Summer Concours in 2006 and the overall winner in 2013. It was also awarded 1st Prize in the 'Ultimate Rakish Sports Car 1929-1940' Class at the
Cartier Concours d'Elegance at The Goodwood Festival of Speed in 2004.

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 into the most prestigious rallies, Concours d'Élégance events and race meetings around the world, the Low Chassis has an enviable reputation among connoisseurs and examples are to be found in some of the most important private collections. With only some 68 surviving, and examples seldom offered for sale, 'Seagull' represents a possibly once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the discerning collector to become part of this remarkable marque's ongoing story.

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