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Gilbern Invader

Gilbern Invader

Production Run:

606

Production Date:

1969 - 1974

Engine:

Ford 2,994cc Essex V6

Built:

Llantwit Fardre (Wales)

0-60:

10.7 Secs

Max Speed:

115 Mph

Introduced ten years after the formation of the company the Gilbern Invader was released in 1969 replacing the Gilbern Genie, remaining in production for only five years the Invader evolved through three marques and even boasted an estate in its range. Evolving through three versions and even boasting an Estate variant this was the third and final model produced by the Factory before the cessation of production in March 1974.

Gilbern Invader MK1

Gilbern Invader MK1

Gilbern had introduced the Genie in 1966; the second model produced by the fledgling company was a dramatic departure away from the GT1800 with a larger 2+2, 2 door coupe body shell. The vehicle utilised a space frame chassis bonded to its body shell that was constructed from fibreglass, power was supplied from the installation of Fordís newly introduced three litre V6 and 2.5 litre V6.

As was the case with many British car companies at the time Gilbern needed a fresh cash injection to boost its finances and allow development of further models to increase production sufficiently to safeguard the future of the fledgling company. Founders Giles Smith and Bernard Friese were cautious in expanding too quickly as they were opposed to committing the company to heavy levels of debt. It was not until April 1968 that the concern was taken over by the ACE group; Roger Collins subsequently installed Michael Leather to run the factory followed by investing heavily in the business tripling manpower, expanding the factory and ramping up production. With the fresh cash injection Gilbern looked into developing a replacement for the Genie with management wishing to produce a car that would appeal to a wider audience.

The Invader was based on a modified variant of the space frame chassis that formed the underpinnings of the outgoing Genie, the changes to the chassis were not universally applauded as a degree of stiffness had been lost at the front furthermore stress cracks were evident quite early on in the vehicles life. The body-tub, constructed of fibreglass had similar styling to its predecessor sharing the front windscreen but featured a new bonnet with rear facing vents and new front grille. Triumph Stag exterior door handles and Gilbernís in house designed Alloy wheels gave the car a neat appearance. At the rear the car used the same rear windscreen as found on the Genie, distinguishing the Invader from the Genie was the introduction of side vents on the rear roof pillar, a new design of boot and the replacement of the rear light clusters with items taken from the Mk 1 Ford Escort.

Gilbern Invader Engine Bay

Gilbern Invader Engine Bay

Each Invader was fitted with a vinyl covered dashboard as used in the Genie, similarly the model received a centre console although this was of a new design and sat slightly lower in the vehicle. Gilbern, wanting to take the car upmarket fitted the car with high back seats, a walnut veneered dashboard, electric windows and stereo radio system complete with automatic electronic retracting aerial. Similar to the outgoing Genie the Invader was fitted suspension taken from MGC but was modified replacing the front lever dampers with double wishbones and co-axial coil springs and dampers, a front anti roll-bar completing the setup. The rear suspension of the vehicle comprised of a fixed beam axle with rear trailing arms. Braking components were very similar to that installed in the Genie albeit slightly larger and consisted of servo assisted discs at the front and drums at the rear, steering remained constant with the installation of a rack and pinion steering rack

The engine was sourced from Ford and was the overhead valve 3.0 litre Essex V6 as fitted to the Ford Zodiac. The unit was reliable and powerful at the time of introduction producing 141 bhp @ 4,750 rpm and 181 lb /ft @ 3,000 rpm, power was transmitted to the rear wheels through a manual four speed gearbox with full synchromesh or optional three speed automatic box. Performance for the Invader was brisk with a 0-60 time of 10.7 seconds and a top speed of around 115 Mph.

Gilbern Invader MK2

Gilbern Invader MK2

The vehicle was launched in July 1969 and was a moderate success for the company, keen not to rest of their laurels Gilbern set about work on a revised Mk II variant of the vehicle. Launched at the 1970 British Motor Show the Mk II featured an improved front chassis design in response to criticism drawn at the original design, the chassis received modified suspension locations and the Watts linkages were replaced with Panhard rods. It was at this same time that Gilbern increased their product line up with the successful Invader Estate although these vehicles were not delivered until March of 1971.

Released in September of 1972 the Invader Mk III development cycle had begun in December 1971 with the main brief to rationalise production, the majority of components were now supplied by Ford to benefit from more advantageous component costs and decreased supply chain complexity. The Mk III continued to use the Essex V6 but now received a four speed manual gearbox with overdrive as used in the Ford Zodiac and Mk III Cortina suspension components with adjustable shock absorbers. The rear axle was replaced with an item taken from the Cortina 2000, this being wider than the previous axle led to wheel spats being added to the sides of the car.

Special attention was paid to the chassis with stiffening of the chassis being a primary area of development, additional diagonal bracings now being present in the ladder sections to provide a more rigid platform. To increase sales potential the chassis was given a symmetrical tunnel that allowed the vehicle to be offered in left hand drive form opening up new markets.

Gilbern Invader MK3

Gilbern Invader MK3

The styling of the Mk III was similar to the Mk II but was lower and wider, sharing the front windscreen but featuring a new bonnet with rear facing vents and new front grille, fog lights were now integrated into the front valance, sidelights were taken from the Triumph 2000 and the bumper line was slightly raised. At the rear the car used the same windscreen as found on the Genie, the rear did receive a minor remodel with side vents on the rear roof pillar, a new design of boot and the replacement of the rear light clusters with items taken from the Mk 1 Ford Escort. At this point Gilbern replaced their own alloy wheels with 13Ē Ford sourced equivalents.

Production of the Invader continued through until 1974 interrupted several times as the company went through a number of owners as financial difficulties took hold. Starved of funds the company ceased trading for the final time in 1974, several resurrections were attempted but never materialised and thus the Gilbern story ended.

Both Mk 1 and Mk 2 vehicles were available as component cars (more commonly referred to as kit cars) or fully completed vehicles. The components cars were supplied painted, trimmed and with the majority of the electrics wired in place, all that was left for the new owner to do was to install the running gear namely the gearbox, rear axle, exhaust system, engine and wheels Ė a process that could be completed in as little as a weekend. Selling the car as in kit form meant that the Invader was not subjected to VAT tax regimes and thus benefited from a substantially lower selling price than fully manufactured vehicles. The final evolution of the Invader, the Mk III was only available as a fully completed car following the decision by the Government to remove the tax breaks associated with a car sold in component form.

During the short production run 606 vehicles were manufactured by Gilbern at their works in Llantwit Fadre, near Pontypridd in Wales. The split of vehicles was 78 Mk 1ís, 316 Mk IIís (including 104 Mk II Estate models), and 212 Mk III models, this by far making the Mk II the most successful evolution in the Invaderís history.

The Facts

Engine:

Ford Essex V6 Overhead Valve

Capacity:

2,994cc

Valves:

12

Compression Ratio:

8.9:1

Fuel System:

1 x Weber Carburettor

Maximum Power:

141 bhp @4,750 rpm

Maximum Torque:

181ft.lb @ 3,000 rpm

Transmission:

Mk 1 ~ Mk 2 - 4 Speed Manual / 3 Speed Automatic

Mk 3 - 4 Speed Manual Gearbox with Optional Overdrive

Top Gear:

-

Brakes:

Front Solid Discs / Rear Drums

Kerb Weight:

903 Kg

Max Speed:

115 Mph

0-60:

10.7 Secs