Tag Archives: Leigh

Shelsley Giant Killer – Spider

Today’s featured Spider was inspired by Capt. Archie Fraser Nash’s successful GN hill climber known a “Kim”.

Spider was built by Basil Davenport who bought a GN chassis from the Captain which he then shortened and converted to a single seater with central steering and fitted a Kim inspired body built from chalk drawings on his workshop floor in 1924.

For 1925 Basil replaced the prototype GN Vitesse 1087cc / 66 cui V twin engine he had originally bought with the chassis for the unique 1500 cc / 91.5 cui V twin with four valve aluminium bronze heads and twin spark plugs from the works GN racer known at Mowgli that had lapped Brooklands at 92 mph.

Spider, Charlie Martin, Chateau Impney,

After fitting lighter pistons and stronger JAP connecting rods Basil turned up at Shelsley Walsh on September the 4th 1926 and became the first man to climb the hill in under 50 seconds.

Further modifications for 1927 including lighter valves and new cam shafts made the car quicker but the engine blew at Colwyn Bay leaving Basil just five weeks to build a new crankcase and motor before Shelsley.

The new crankcase allowed one cylinder to be mounted slightly ahead of the other for added reliability of the connecting rods and the engine compression was raised so the 40mm Solex Carburettors could now feed the engine with an alcohol fuel mixture.

Spider, David Leigh, VSCC, Prescott

At Shelsley in 1927 Basil knocked another second of his record, despite the rain !

The following season Basil left the Shelsley record at 46.4 seconds and it was not until 1929 that Raymond Mays driving a 3 litre / 183 cui supercharged Villiers relieved Basil of the Shelsley record.

In 1930 Basil proved to be quicker up Shelsley that none other than Rudolf Caracciola driving a supercharged 7 litre / 427 cui Mercedes Benz SSK.

Spider, VSCC, Prescott

At the same meeting his temporary 44.6 second record eventually fell to Hans Stuck who drove his 3.5 litre / 213 cui Austro Daimler to a new record of 42.8 seconds leaving Basil and the Spider in second place.

There after Basil fitted new heads to the car and even front wheel brakes, but these did not help make the car any quicker and he retired to look after his business interests in 1931.

In 1946 Basil brought Spider briefly out of retirement to set the best unsupercharged time at Shelsley but elected to cannibalise Spider particularly of it’s body, held on by six bolts and chain drive transmission for the 2 litre / 122 cui Big Spider.

Spider, Charlie Martin, Chateau Impney,

While still at school in 1979 David Leigh started helping Basil rebuild the original Spider.

After Basil’s death David bought bought Spider from Basil’s longstanding mechanic Ron Sant in 1994.

Three years later David managed to drive Spider up Shelsley in under 40 seconds which had been Basil’s dream since breaking the 50 second record in 1926.

Spider, David Leigh, VSCC, Prescott

David modestly credits the achievement to the improvements in the track surface and latest Avon GP motorcycle tyres which sit on period correct size 19 inch rims.

David Leigh is seen at the wheel, recovered from a Handley Page bomber, of Spider in the 2013 photographs taken at Prescott.

At Chateau Impeney Charlie Martin, better known for driving the Morgan RIP Special became only the third person to drive Spider as seen in the above 2015 dated photographs.

My thanks to Tim Murray for kindly lending me his copy of John Bolsters “Specials” 1971 edition with out which this blog would be very brief.

Thanks for joining me on this “Shelsley Giant Killer” edition of “Gettin’ a li’l psycho on tyres” I hope you will join me again tomorrow when I’ll be looking at another ERA. Don’t forget to come back now !


The Unvanquished Tough Nut From Chippenham – Invicta S1

Invicta is a name that has popped up from time to time in the automotive industry since 1900 when the name appeared on cars made in Finchley, London until 1905. The following year, 1906, the Invicta name was intended to be used by a vehicle manufacturer in Turin.

A third unrelated incarnation of the Invicta name was used by Clarks Eng. Wrks Ltd in Leamington Spa, Warwickshire in 1914.

Invicta S1, Goodwood FoS

The fourth and to date most successful incarnation of Invicta appeared when Noel Macklin teamed up with Tate & Lyle sugar heir Oliver Lyle in 1925. Based in Cobham, Surrey they aimed to build a range of vehicles that matched Rolls Royce for quality and Bentley for speed using proprietary 6 cylinder Meadows engines until it’s demise in 1935.

Invicta S1, Goodwood FoS

The fourth incarnation of Invicta achieved a fair ampun of publicity as a result of Noel Macklins sister in law Violette Cordery being awarded the Dewar Trophy in 1926 after averaging a fraction over 70 mph over 5,000 miles (8,000 kms) at Montlhery and again in 1929 after driving 30,000 miles (48,000 kms) in 21 days averaging a fraction over 61 mph at Brooklands. Donald Healey also won the Monte Carlo Rally outright in 1931, despite bending the chassis in an accident in Norway soon after the start of the event.

Invicta S1, Goodwood FoS

In 1946 the Invicta company was reformed in Virginia Water and produced a Meadows powered Black Prince, only 16 of which were manufactured before production ceased and the brand name was sold to Frazer Nash the vehicle manufacturer, not the same Frazer Nash that bought the remains of the Bristol Car Company recently.

Invicta S1, Goodwood FoS

The Invicta name has also twice been used by Buick as a model name.

Invicta S1, Goodwood FoS

The most recent incarnation of the Invicta vehicle brand surfaced in 2004 with this monster of a sports car, built in Chippenham, available with up to 600 hp from a hand built Ford Special Vehicles Team (SVT) supplied V8.

Invicta S1, Goodwood FoS

Carrying the same name as the most successful pre-war model, used to win the Monte Carlo Rally in 1931, the S1 is built around a steel tube space frame featuring a safety roll cage and is claimed to be the strongest chassis ever tested by UK safety officials.

Invicta S1, Goodwood FoS

The body, designed by Leigh Adams and his Automotive Design & Prototyping studio, is a single piece of carbon fibre which further reinforces the chassis strength.

Invicta S1, Goodwood FoS

Invicta claim the S1 will reach 60 mph from rest in 3.8 seconds and that the aerodynamics will keep the car stable to over 200 mph…. where permitted.

Invicta S1, Goodwood FoS

Production of the S1 is limited to 50 per year, when I was on my way to Castle Combe last weekend I heard one and then saw it come cruising past in my rear view mirror, this car has an awesome presence when on the move.

Thanks for joining me for this unvanquished edition of ‘Gettin’ a lil’ psycho on tyres’ I hope you will join me again tomorrow. Don’t forget to come back now !