1971 GILBERN Invader Estate

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1971 GILBERN Invader Estate



Gilbern Sports Cars Ltd was a joint venture between Giles Smith, a Welsh butcher, and Bernard Friese, a German engineer and ex-prisoner of war.

Their first car was launched in 1959 from a shed behind his butcher’s shop, an inauspicious start but one that quickly established the firm as one of the leading sports car makers of their time.

Named after the founders (GILes and BERNard), Gilbern established itself using a canny combination of a steel chassis, a fibreglass body and mechanical components taken from volume manufacturers like Austin-Healey, MG, and Ford. Designed for final assembly at home, a weekend’s work allowed its owner to dodge the purchase tax they’d otherwise have had to pay on their new car.

The Invader, like the Genie, used the Ford V6 engine, a square-section spaceframe chassis and bonded fibreglass body – and if a Panhard rod replaced the Watts linkage, the lineage was nonetheless clear.

Launched in 1969 as a replacement for the well-received Genie, the Invader featured a restyled interior and, with the MKII of 1971, door handles from a Triumph Stag and the rear lights from a milk float.

Humble components maybe, but demand was strong leading Gilbern to boast of 10-month waiting times despite the Invader costing £500 more than the Ford Capri 3000GT with which it shared its engine.

And, for £150 more than the saloon, you could have your Invader as an estate like the one you see here, something around 100 customers opted for.

The Vehicle

Showing just three previous keepers on the V5 registration document, this 1971 Gilbern Invader estate wouldn’t be short of charms if it were still in showroom specification.

But, it’s not because there’s a Vauxhall Omega 24-valve, 2.5-litre V6 engine and five-speed manual gearbox under the bonnet. Originally finished in gold too, it is now a discreet grey, all the better to maintain its classic street-sleeper persona.

In the care of its Gilbern-enthusiast owner since 2018 – and yes, the green Genie we’re selling is his too – he’d lavished many hundreds of hours to create an Invader fit for the 21st century.

On the Outside

With no rust or corrosion to worry about, your thoughts might be turning to panel fit and alignment, something fibreglass cars of this era are notorious for. But, even here, your worries are misplaced because it all fits together very well. Yes, the passenger door shut lines are a little bit out at the bottom but the rest is very good indeed.

As is the paint. We love the subtlety the hue brings to the party because if you’re going to build a fast estate then you want to keep things low key, to fly under the radar until you’re ready to show the world what you’re driving.

The exterior chromework is good and provides a subtle but welcome counterpoint to the stealth grey coachwork.

The genuine 15-inch Maglite wheels add to the Invader’s understated looks. They are in fine shape too, and are fitted with matching 196/65R15 Continental tyres, all of which still have oodles of tread left on ‘em.

We will never get tired of telling you that experience shows that matching high-quality tyres are an infallible sign of a caring and mechanically sympathetic owner who is prepared to spend the appropriate amount in maintaining their car properly. Their presence does not, of course, preclude the need for a thorough inspection - something the vendor would welcome, by the way – but it does perhaps give you a shortcut into their attitude towards maintenance.

The P700 Tripod Classic headlamps are joined by a pair of Lucas spotlights, which means both night-time vision and daylight posing are taken care of.

The windscreen and rear window glass were both new.

There are a few areas that a fastidious owner might like to look at: the rear hinges for the boot seem to have some damage to the surrounding fibreglass/paint (i.e. #215); the driver’s door catch is cracked (#144); the bottom left of boot lid has some crazing (#173); and the rear window seals have some glue residue still left on the paintwork (i.e. #103).

If we’re being ultra-picky there’s also a small mark on the paint just in front of the wing mirror on the driver’s door, the rubber seal for the filler neck is perished (#96), and there’s some bubbling to the paint on the bonnet (i.e. #259).

On the Inside

The interior might have a low-volume look to it but there’s no denying the quality of the finish or the fittings. With one of the nicest heater control panels we’ve seen in a long time fitted in the centre console, the array of Smiths instruments - which including a combination speedometer that neatly integrates classic analogue looks with digital accuracy - and row of rocker

switches give the cockpit a timeless, sporting feel, something the three-spoke Springalex steering wheel reinforces.

The front seats, which come from an MGF, are in great shape, being as comfortable as they are good looking. Only gently creased and all the better for their light patination, the originals are available should the winning bidder want to return the car to standard.

All the electrics we tried were working, including the AEM air/fuel ratio gauge and vacuum gauge. There’s a neatly installed USB charging point as well, which is another indicator of how well thought out this conversion is.

The door cards, headlining, and carpets are all good.

The boot is large and flat, giving a useful area for luggage or the weekly shop. Lifting the floor reveals a useful hidden storage are for tools, spare parts, and a bottle of engine oil in addition to the tyre inflator that already lives in there. The latter is there because the vendor hates the way the fuel tank hangs low on the standard car, so ditched it in favour of a custom petrol tank that sits in what was once the spare wheel well. It’s beautifully done and tidies up the car’s underside no end.

Flaws are few. There are a couple of rips on the back seat (#64) and one in the boot (#214).


The engine bay, with its much more modern motor neatly installed, looks good and there’s no obvious signs of leaks or damage. As you can see, it starts promptly and shows good oil pressure and charging. It revs well, and makes a wonderful exhaust note thanks to a two-into-one custom exhaust. Both it, and the one on the Genie, run a Volvo 960 rear silencer.

There’s a neat, custom-built alloy radiator to keep things cool, and the vendor tells us that the engine and gearbox sit on bespoke mounts.

It’s retained the standard MGC braking system, the same as the Genie. However, the suspension has been replaced by aluminium coilovers on all four corners, the wiring harness is bespoke, and the power steering system is controlled by the same Megasquirt ECU that takes care of the fuelling and ignition. (Incidentally, the owner tells us that the PAS makes a huge difference to the way the car drives.)

As for the test drive, our assessor reports that “the clutch is very low and has little movement; it’s either on or off.” He reports that it also “feels a bit soft when driving and turning.”

History Highlights

The Gilbern’s MoT certificate is valid until November 2023 and it was gained with no advisories.

The recent Vehicle History Check is clean.

What We Think

While you might be uncomfortable telling your dear old mum the name of the car you’ve just bought, there’s no doubt the Invader offers an awful lot of style for your money.

With a much more modern engine providing greater performance and reliability than anything you could buy in period too, we don’t think there’s anything cooler than a resto-modded classic estate – and while the Volvo P1800 is very nice, it’s been done to death by now, so wouldn’t you rather get something like this, a car that’s every bit as fast and beautiful but has a dragon as its emblem?

It’s not as if it’s going to cost you a fortune, either. We think this one, the product of a serious amount of work by a Gilbern enthusiast who knows what works and, more importantly, what doesn’t, is likely to go for somewhere between £10,000 and £15,000, which is a pitifully small sum to pay for something that looks, drives, and goes like this.

Viewing is always encouraged, and this particular car is located with us at The Market HQ near Abingdon; we are open weekdays 9am-5pm, to arrange an appointment please use the Contact Seller button at the top of the listing. Feel free to ask any questions or make observations in the comments section below, or try our ‘Frequently Asked Questions’.

Bidders MUST ensure they are aware of the registration situation of a car in auction, and whether it will be possible to export/register a vehicle in their country BEFORE they bid.

All vehicles MUST BE COLLECTED WITHIN 7-DAYS of the auction end. Storage fees of £180 + VAT apply (per week) thereafter without exception.

If needed, Footman James classic car insurance and Classic Concierge offer storage can offer you options, plus we have a list of contacts who can help with transport and shipping both domestic and international.  

BORING, but IMPORTANT: Please note that whilst we at The Market always aim to offer the most descriptive and transparent auction listings available, we cannot claim they are perfect analyses of any of the vehicles for sale. We offer far greater opportunity for bidders to view, or arrange inspections for each vehicle thoroughly prior to bidding than traditional auctions, and we always encourage bidders to take advantage of this. We do take a good look at those vehicles which are delivered to our premises for sale, but this only results in our unbiased personal observations, not those of a qualified inspector or other professional, or the result of a long test drive.

Also, localised paint repairs are common with collectable and classic cars and if they have been professionally carried out then they may be impossible to detect, even if we see the car in person. So, unless we state otherwise, please assume that any vehicle could have had remedial bodywork at some point in its life.

Additionally, please note that most of the videos on our site have been recorded using basic cameras which often result in 'average' sound quality; in particular, engines and exhausts notes can sound a little different to how they are in reality.

Please note that this is sold as seen (Caveat Emptor) and that, as is normal for used goods bought at auction, a return policy does not apply. See our FAQs for more info, and feel free to inspect any vehicle as much as you wish.

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  • Location: The Market HQ, Abingdon, United Kingdom
  • Seller Type: Private
  • Odometer Reading: 000543
  • Chassis Number: 1N1166
  • Engine: 2500 cc
  • Gearbox: Manual
  • Steering position: Right-hand drive
  • Colour: Grey
  • Interior: Black Leather/vinyl
  • Estimated Price: £10,000 - £15,000

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