First Prize at the Villa d’Este (2000)

Although it is more than twenty years ago, our participation in the Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este in the year 2000 is still memorable. At the turn of the century, the recently restored Invicta S-type Low Chassis with Corsica DHC body from 1933 was selected for exhibition at this grand international beauty competition for cars. Knowing that a mere fifty cars from all over the world are admitted each year, we were, of course, delighted when we heard we could present the impressive Invicta to the international audience of one of the most prestigious European events. What an honour! All the more surprising was the news that our classic car was declared the winner in its category: the first prize in the pre-war sports cars category was for our Invicta from 1933, restored by Marreyt.

Villa d'este 1St price.jpeg

It was a magical moment, which we still remember with some nostalgia today. Not only is the Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este one of the most spectacular events in the world thanks to an idyllic setting at a Roman villa next to Lake Como, but our Invicta in a category that is close to our hearts: the pre-war sports cars. The name says it all: this category includes cars boasting a rich history that have quite a few years on the clock. Not only do these classic cars have fantastic histories, but they are also cars that usually require a slightly more challenging restoration. And you know us: the more complex the restoration, the more we find it appealing. Moreover, these are not cars intended for ”ordinary” passenger transport, but genuine sports cars. So it’s completely our style.

Villa d'este Bernard.jpeg

How our passion for authenticity charmed the jury

Why, out of all the fantastic cars present, was it specifically our Invicta that was so appealing to the jury and visitors? We think the charm of this classic car radiated what we care about so much: a rich, fully researched history, as well as deep respect for the authenticity of the car.

Our team started the Invicta restoration intending to restore the classic car with the utmost respect: in other words, as authentically as possible and in the spirit of the time. At that time this careful consideration was not a given, as is still often the case nowadays. Many old-timer restorers do not place that much importance on the maximum preservation of authentic material at all costs.

Villa d'este.jpeg
Preservation avant la lettre Bernard Marreyt , Marreyt Classic Cars

For the sake of convenience, a restoration was often done using new material, which is easier and usually results in a stronger repair of the classic car due to more modern material. However, back then we already saw things differently at Marreyt, and we still do. That’s why many years ago we already made it a point to restore the car correctly, according to historical insight, no matter how challenging. Call it “preservation avant la lettre” – we have always believed that a classic car should be regarded as heritage and should, therefore, be preserved and cherished. That’s why we kept as much of the original material as possible during the restoration of the Invicta; the chassis, the aluminium body, the sheet metal wings, the wooden skeleton. The only parts that were replaced were vital elements or (parts of) limited areas, albeit with accurately resourced or self-manufactured elements made of authentic material. This almost obsessive, meticulous care to guarantee the authenticity of the classic car, which is our trademark today, did not go unnoticed at the competition in Italy.

Additionally, this was not just ”any authentic restoration”, but rather an authentic restoration of a classic car that appealed to the imagination. The Invicta from 1933 is a special car: a 1930s showpiece of which only 78 were made, assembled with the finest materials. Evidence of this includes the bronze couplings between the chassis elements in nickel steel, the structural elements in artfully cast aluminium, etc. This car is the cream of the crop, the best of the best. Unfortunately, that was also the downfall of a car that only had a few buyers during the 1930s crisis. It is a beautiful and ambitious car, but it was launched at the wrong time and was therefore a commercial failure. In short, a magnificent but tragic car with a striking story, which we recounted at the Villa d´Este thanks to our authentic restoration, highlighting the typical Invicta features. Sixty-seven years after its inception, our Invicta convincingly spoke for itself.

We brought both the authenticity and the exceptional history of the Invicta to the fore, presenting this magnificent classic car in all its original glory. We think that this is what charmed the jury, likely also in combination with Bernard’s endless enthusiasm and infinite inspiration. He shared the Invicta story with Villa d’Este visitors in person. And that’s exactly why this is such a beautiful award for us.