Wales hasn’t produced many cars, but the Invader was a bit of a corker.
The Invader was Gilbern’s last gasp. It used a Ford Essex V6, MGC rear axle and a steel spaceframe chassis clad in glassfibre bodywork. By its 1969 launch, more cars were being built at the factory in a move away from its home-build roots. The facelifted 1972 MkIII used the front suspension and rear axle from a Ford Cortina MkIII.
Power (bhp@rpm) 140bhp@4750rpm
Torque (lb ft@rpm) 182lb ft@3000rpm
Top speed 116mph
Gearbox 4-speed manual OD
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
BODYWORK & CHASSIS
Glassfibre has its own issues, so look for stress cracks around hinges and the base of the windscreen pillars and any signs of crazing. A cosmetic overhaul can get expensive, but the good news is that the Gilbern Owners’ Club still has most of the body moulds used for these cars. Far more critical is the state of the chassis. A car can look immaculate, but be rotten underneath. Most will have had some work carried out, so you really need to get underneath to check the condition. Removing the body is a complex process, so sections of body may have been cut out for repairs to take place.
The lusty Essex V6 should have plenty of grunt. Regular coolant changes are necessary for good health – rusty coolant suggests neglect and the block will readily silt up. The fibre timing gear is a well-known foible – steel replacements are available and a bonus point if the car you’re viewing has one. Keep an eye on the temperature gauge and watch the exhaust for any signs of blue smoke, indicating wear or valve stem seals in need of replacement. The Ford-derived gearbox should offer crunch-free gearchanges. Whichever back axle is fitted, listen out for excessive noise. The Salisbury unit in the MkI and MkII is very tough, but can be expensive to rebuild.
The MkI and MkII use an MG rack, the MkIII borrows from the MkIII Cortina again. All should be free of play. Some suspension components, such as arms and bushes, are unique to the Gilbern. The club has some stock and is looking to have bushes remade in polyurethane. Listen out for knocks and clonks. Brakes can suffer if a car has been standing, so make sure they are effective and that the car doesn’t pull to one side. The brake parts are all borrowed from BMC or Ford, so are easy to find.
The Invader was fairly plush for a component car, though trim was usually vinyl. A retrim in leather is always nice to have and a few cars have been treated to this over the years – it improves the look of the cabin and adds a little to a car’s inherent value. Watch for problems with the wood dashboard (where fitted)
– usually walnut or elm. Also check for water ingress; soggy carpets or a damp smell are the giveaway, indicating tired screen seals. The electrical components are mainly Lucas, so parts aren’t too difficult to come by. The electric window motors are courtesy of Vauxhall however, and replacements are getting rare. They can be reconditioned, but it’s easier to make sure they work. Make sure everything works. Earthing issues are a possibility, but most failures are often down to nothing more sinister than dirty or corroded connectors.
If you want an exclusive sports car that’s simple to maintain and great fun to drive, then the Invader is the car for you. The Essex V6 is very heavy and not all that powerful, but it does have plenty of low down grunt, making acceleration a spirited affair. They corner well too, thanks to co-founder Giles Smith’s racing knowledge. It’s worth remembering that Mk3s are particularly desirable and can command around 20 per cent more than earlier Invaders.