Street furniture… Automotive slang for cars that simply decorated the roads up and down the land.
On a personal level, if you were a child growing up in the 70s and 80s many things once so very commonplace like phone boxes, mechanical parking meters or Ford Cortinas with coat hanger aerials are now fading distant memories. If you are old enough to remember participating in the now extinct amateur sport of “slinging a racing bike cycle tyre over a lamp post” you are bound to be sighing and slowly nodding at the screen.
One of my all time favourite automotive memories I so dearly miss, apart from the sound of a backfiring petrol engine, is the glorious sight and sound of the marvellous motorbility car for the masses… the Invacar. A cute little pastel blue three wheeled car designed and built exclusively for the disabled (pah! why should they have all the fun?) once everywhere… But now, just like getting two bob back on an empty dandelion and burdock pop bottle, a distant motoring memory.
No other vehicle of its era caused young boys to laugh so much owing to the weird bug like styling and the wonderful whining racket of the two cylinder Puch engine and CVT transmission. Back in the 70s, the Invacar earned nicknames that were almost as politically incorrect as the era in general. However one thing was for sure, they gave the disabled person a whole new lease of independence… even if they were a prime moving target for snowballs on the way home from school in winter.
Some of the earlier examples featured a revised 150cc Villiers motorbike engine but by the type the “Type 70” version came along in 1973, the power unit was uprated. Initially a 500cc engine was fitted with uprated transmission, by the time production ceased in 1977 this was increased to 598cc. It was reported that some 21,000 or more vehicles were produced in total and the Motability scheme of the day was meant to have ended in 1981. This was extended as owners were so fond of them and a replacement scheme was not yet fully planned out.
Different versions came in the form of a standard vehicle with bench seat and steering wheel along with traditional pedals or variants including a longer wheelbase, sliding door and handlebars for occupants who relied on the use of a wheelchair. But in 2003 the cars were all recalled by central government with thousands of them stockpiled in warehouses or approved breakers yards awaiting their fate. They failed to meet current and future type approval not to mention an alarming habit of catching fire – not ideal for a wheelchair dependant person eh?
You can rekindle the memories of a bygone era by watching this wonderful video of the Invacar by CLICKING HERE those old enough will just adore that wonderful engine sound!
Some Invacar facts:
They were produced by the AC car company – not quite a Cobra but nevertheless the same firm.
Constructed of a fibreglass body in “Ministry” blue with steel tube chassis and laminated timber floor.
They were good for over 70mph and potentially could do the same speed backwards thanks to the CVT gearbox – a restrictor linkage on the throttle prevented this happening when reverse was selected.
If you didn’t manage to get injured by rolling it over on a fast bend, you stood a fair chance of being killed by death thanks to a worrying problem with leaking fuel combusting on a hot engine manifold – serious fires were a known fault.
Essex based Indie pop group Collapsed Lung who went on to record the football inspired smash hit Eat my Goal recorded a single in 1993 called Thundersley Invacar