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Vintage car ownership creates lifetime of memories

Feb. 15, 2018 — A 1929 Invicta has been in the Delphia family for decades and is the source of many happy memories for Ted Delphia, whose father Ben purchased the car at auction in England in the early 1970s.

Ben Delphia was an automotive interior designer who worked in the industry for decades, starting out at Chrysler where he worked for 20 years. Subsequently he worked as an independent and later joined automotive supplier Magna Interior Systems. In his teens growing up in California, Ben was a hotrodder and often raced on the same roads depicted in the movie, American Graffiti.

“Given my dad’s artistic skills and his love of automobiles, he was eager to buy a car—a unique car. He was attracted to the Invicta because of its styling but knew nothing else about the model or brand. The Invicta was in an auction in England where he was working in the early 1970s and didn’t sell because the reserve wasn’t met. Dad offered the reserve price to the young couple who owned it at the time, thus acquiring the high-chassis touring car.

“The car was in sad shape,” Ted said, noting that the car had not been maintained well and it was showing its age. The exterior was less than pristine; it had been painted with a brush.

When Ben and the Delphia family returned to the U.S. in 1974, he had the car shipped. It was damaged in shipment, prompting Ben to have it restored.

As luck would have it, the restorer where the Delphias took the car went bankrupt – out of business – before the Invicta was finished.

“We got it back in pieces and some parts were missing,” Ted said. “It sat that way in the garage from 1977 to 2002.
“I was 7 or 8 years old when we lived in England,” Ted said. “We have such huge memories of the car and seeing it in our garage now was incredible and prompted us to bring it back to its original beauty.”

Ben retired in 2001 and relocated to the western side of Michigan where there is a fair but relatively unknown amount of automotive restoration expertise. He assigned the restoration work to University Motors outside of Grand Rapids. “Dad knew where to take it. The owner of University Motors is an MG guy with knowledge of British cars. The thing about British cars is they worked through the same suppliers and used common parts. Many parts on the Invicta can be found in other British-manufactured models. For example, the Invicta’s engine is a straight 6-cylinder 4-1/2-liter (4429 cc) Meadows engine that also can be found in Lagondas,” Ted said.

The Delphia-owned Invicta was in restoration from 2003 to 2007. Following the restoration, ongoing maintenance has continued.

Of the unique car, Ted noted “most people don’t know anything about it. It has a 129-in. wheel base, is not as wide as contemporary cars and seats five. The body style is a 4-door touring model crafted by Carlton Carriage Co. The body is aluminum and sports a two-tone silver and dark blue paint scheme.

The car’s history suggests it spent most of its first 30 years in the jungles of West Africa as transportation for a British Colonial Administrator. Given this location, it likely survived destruction as other vehicles made of aluminum were melted down to provide material for WWII.

The Invicta Motor Company had a short but proud history, including Donald Healey’s first place finish in a 4-1/2 liter during the 1931 Monte Carlo Rally for Britain’s first-ever win there.

Following its restoration, the car won the Eyes on Design Automotive Design of Exceptional Merit award in 2004 in an event sponsored by Daimler Chrysler and a First in Class at the 2010 Meadowbrook Concours d’Elegance.
The 1929 Invicta will compete for honors at the 2018 Milwaukee Concours d’Elegance, Aug. 5, in Veterans Park on Milwaukee’s beautiful lakefront. “We’re excited to welcome this unique vehicle to our concours competition,” said Carrol Jensen, co-chair of the event. “This vehicle’s rich history of survival exemplifies the vintage and classic-car collecting hobby.”

The visit to Milwaukee in August 2018 by Ben and Ted in the 1929 Invicta will be the first long drive the car has had in a long time. “We’re looking forward to it,” Ted said.

The 2018 Milwaukee Concours d’Elegance will stress elegance as we celebrate the history of the world’s most luxurious cars. The theme, Premium Luxury, focuses on the most luxurious high-end motorcars through history. Other distinctive features will include cars that raced at the Milwaukee Mile, the sporting cars that carry the Healey name, the Mustang feature class and anything on two wheels from historic motorcycles to high-wheel bicycles.

The Masterpiece Ltd., host of the Milwaukee Concours d’Elegance, is organized and operated exclusively to support other public charities including but not limited to those operating in southeastern Wisconsin which provide medical and social service care and relief to underprivileged children and families through various motor vehicle-related fundraising events.
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