Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 148,441 pages of information and 233,877 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.
of Thundersley, Essex.
1948 Bert Greeves adapted a motorbike for exclusively manual control with the help of his paralysed cousin, Derry Preston-Cobb, as transport for Preston-Cobb. In the number of former servicemen disabled in the Second World War they spotted a commercial opportunity and approached the UK government for support, leading to the creation of Invacar Ltd. The British Ministry of Pensions distributed Invacars free to disabled people from 1948 until the 1970s.
Early vehicles were powered by an air-cooled Villiers 147 cc engine, but when production of that engine ceased in the early 1970s it was replaced by a much more powerful 4-stroke 500 cc or 600 cc Steyr-Puch engine, giving a reported top speed of 82 mph (132 km/h). During the 1960s and 70s the Invacar, with its modern fibreglass shell and ice-blue colouring—nicknamed Ministry Blue after the Ministry of Health—was produced in the tens of thousands. Developments—including an extended wheelbase, widened track and use of Austin Mini wheels—saw the Invacars right through to the end of the final DHSS contract in 1977. More than 50 variants were produced.
On 31 March 2003 all Invacars owned by the government were recalled and scrapped because of safety concerns. The veteran vehicle could not meet modern-day government regulations, which required approval under the Motorcycle Single Vehicle Approval scheme as part of a standard set by the European Union. There were still around 200 Invacars in Britain before the 2003 recall and scrapping programme. Hundreds of stockpiled Invacars in government warehouses were scrapped, along with all their spare parts. A few examples survive in the hands of private owners and museums in Britain and abroad. Invacars can still be used on UK roads; only vehicles owned by the government were scrapped.
All Invacars were owned by the government and leased to disabled drivers as part of their disability benefit.