Frequently Asked Questions about the Invacar
There are an awful lot of urban myths, mistruths, misunderstandings and outright lies commonly circulating about Invacars. In an attempt to right a few of these I have created a little FAQ.
The facts presented on this page are correct to the best
of my knowledge based on my own research, experience and input from a friend who
has done quite a bit of research on the subject for the Invalid Carriage
Register - however we're both still human, so I cannot provide any actual
warranty with this information.
There is also specific information towards the bottom of this page which should be useful if you are looking to return one of these little cars to the road. You can skip directly to that by clicking here if that's what you're looking for.
This is probably the most commonly repeated nonsensical "fact" regarding these cars.
In a word, "No."
Before I can fully explain what was done to make it so that they couldn't legally be driven, it's necessary to understand a little about how vehicle registration in the UK works. This is a little wordy I'm afraid simply by the nature of the beast, so I apologise for that! If you fully understand this already just skip past the green text.
To drive or store a vehicle legally on the road in the UK several things must be in place from an administrative perspective. It must be registered to a person or organisation - this is who will be shown on the vehicle registration (V5C) document. In addition to this, a fee called the Road Fund Duty must be paid - this is more commonly referred to as the Road Tax. Even for vehicles where this is zero rated (for example historic vehicles or a disabled driver) the keeper must still go through this process on a yearly basis, even though there's no actual fee to pay in that case. Until October 2014 they used to issue a paper disc which had to be displayed in the vehicle which showed the expiry date of the road tax on the vehicle, however at that point they moved to a fully electronic system and did away with the paper discs. Legally it is also the responsibility of the vehicle keeper to ensure that insurance is in place to cover against at least third party risks. The final piece in the puzzle is the MOT - an annual vehicle safety test which all vehicles over three years of age* in the UK need to pass. It used to be the case that the computer system checked for the presence of valid insurance and a valid MOT certificate if you tried to tax a car - but that seems to have been dropped in recent years.
* Some vehicles require an MOT from year one - for example passenger carrying vehicles (buses). There is also an exemption in place now which allows vehicles over 40 years old which have not been significantly modified to be driven on the road without a current MOT. Though it is the responsibility of the driver to ensure that the car is in a roadworthy condition, and they must sign a declaration to show that they understand that fact.
If the vehicle does not have an MOT (if it requires one), is not in a roadworthy state, isn't insured or any combination of these the vehicle keeper must make what is referred to as a SORN (Statutory Off Road Notification) declaration to the DVLA and the vehicle be kept fully off the public highway. It basically helps the DVLA keep track of vehicles that otherwise might have historically been forgotten about, as it means that there is a continuous record all the way from production now all the way through to when the car is scrapped.
At the end of the life of a vehicle, the scrap handler who handles the disposal of the vehicle provides what is referred to as the Certificate of Destruction (CoD) and notifies the DVLA (our equivalent of the DMV in the USA) that the vehicle has been scrapped. Once the CoD has been issued it is pretty much impossible for a vehicle to return to the road. It has successfully been managed in a handful of cases for vehicles of particular historic importance, but it's rare.
The Certificate of Destruction was introduced in late 2003 when the whole legal framework surrounding the disposal of scrap vehicles in the UK was given a major shake up. Prior to then anyone could declare that a car had been "scrapped" by simply ticking a box on the registration certificate and sending it back to the DVLA. That simply resulted in them putting a marker on the car's file which showed it as "dead" effectively.
With that out the way - here's what was done to take all the Invacars off the road:
The government department handling the scheme (the Invalid Vehicle Service) notified the DVLA that the vehicles were scrapped.
That's it, and it was done probably quite some time before the cars were actually passed on to the companies who were tasked with actually breaking the cars up. Given the number of vehicles involved, it's quite likely that they never even actually individually ticked the box and returned each registration document - rather just sent a list of all the affected registration numbers to the DVLA and said "These have all been scrapped" then shredded the documents.
Once the DVLA had been notified that the cars had been scrapped, it would be impossible to tax them as the computer would see the scrapped marker against the car and refuse to issue the tax disc.
Bingo - pretty much overnight it became impossible to legally use or store an Invacar on the public road as you couldn't tax them.
That's it - it's really incredibly simple. Nothing
was ever signed into law which banned them from the road. No vehicle type
approvals were rescinded or anything, the DVLA were simply notified that they
had been scrapped.
This obviously only applied to the government owned cars (which was the vast, vast majority of them - at best guess less than 50 Model 70s were ever sold privately). The privately owned examples were obviously unaffected as their keepers actually owned them, rather than simply being leased to them as with the government issued cars.
It's worth noting that all of the government owned Invacars were scrapped when they were taken out of service at the end of their lease (whether that be because the user had switched to another type of vehicle, the Invacar was damaged in an accident, simply wore out or the user passed away). It was just when the scheme was wound up that it was done on such a large scale all at once.
This is actually one of the more sensible questions I get
asked. After all, it does say "GOVERNMENT PROPERTY" right there on the VIN
This is one of those areas where I'm sure some people will have differing views to me, but this is my take on the matter:
While these vehicles were originally all government owned, that ceased to be the case when they were handed over to the companies contracted to dispose of them. At that point they became the property of the scrap dealers.
Yes, they were all meant to have been destroyed. Any repercussions of that are for the respective scrap dealers and whoever handled the disposal contract to argue over. However to my mind, the government relinquished ownership of the vehicles when they handed them over to be scrapped.
I seriously doubt though that anyone is ever going to come to chase the matter up now, 19 years and counting later. Especially as the government branch which handled the scheme itself (the Invalid Vehicle Service) ceased to exist by the end of 2004 and the associated records have long since been destroyed. There literally isn't anyone there TO come after them.
The Model 70 was jointly made by Invacar Limited and by AC Cars to a common design. The design work is all AC's though.
There were a huge variety of invalid carriages made before the launch of the Model 70 though made by a plethora of makers. The term "Invacar" became used as something of a catch-all term for them from all sometime around the 1950s, in the same way that "Hoover" is often used to refer to vacuum cleaners or "Kleenex" to refer to tissues, irrespective of the actual maker.
Not true for the Model 70, which used a four stroke two cylinder 493cc engine sourced from Steyr-Puch.
Though pretty much all of the petrol powered Invalid Carriages made prior to the introduction of the Model 70 did use the single cylinder Villiers 6E to 11E two stroke bike engines.
Nearly 4000 miles travelled without any hint of a roll
over incident, despite living in Milton Keynes (the home of roundabouts!) in TPA
by me says otherwise.
Yes, there are limitations you need to be aware of with it being a three wheeler, but that's true of ANY three wheeled vehicle. Don't act a fool and it will be absolutely fine. Having the engine mounted at the rear and very low down helps the Model 70 have far lower a centre of gravity than you would think to look at it.
Wrong. You absolutely can.
As far as the law is concerned today, a Model 70 is treated exactly the same as any other lightweight three wheeled vehicle such as a Reliant Robin. This is where it will surprise a lot of people though - and it technically always has been!
The specific legislation concerning Invalid Carriages was introduced along with the unified Road Traffic Act in 1930, however it never really kept pace with the changes in the vehicles over the years. As such anything over 254kg in weight legally speaking would be treated as a motorcycle (if it had less than four wheels and weighs less than 410kg) or a car. So basically any of the vehicles which feature a full body legally speaking aren't actually Invalid Carriages.
The confusion was furthered by the fact that the weight limits as far as vehicle taxation and licensing were concerned were different - the cut off there being below 508kg (10cwt in old money). Oh, and yes, you did need a driving licence to drive one - Category J in the terminology of the time.
These days for licensing requirements they fall under the usual B/B1 categories.
This somewhat convoluted mess however is why if you look at the registration document for basically any enclosed body invalid carriage you will see that under body type, it actually says "INVALID VEHICLE" rather than "INVALID CARRIAGE" as technically they aren't invalid carriages.
Now completely irrespective of the legality of it, whether
you SHOULD take an Invacar on a motorway, that's a totally different discussion.
In my view it's absolutely fine provided that you use a decent dose of common sense, and I do take TPA on the M1 now and then.
+ First and foremost, don't even consider taking a Villiers engined Invacar near a motorway. A healthy Model 70 can keep up fairly well with the general pace of traffic well enough to not be a hazard. The same simply isn't true of the earlier cars.
+ Make sure before you do it that you know the car well. I'd been driving TPA pretty regularly for about six months before I was willing to venture onto the motorway.
+ Keep conditions in mind. DO NOT EVEN THINK ABOUT IT if it's a windy day. Crosswinds, especially gusty ones are an Invacar's worst enemy, and are bloody unnerving at the best of times. You really don't want to have to deal with getting buffeted by HGVs AND wind while travelling at speed.
+ As above, but also keep traffic in mind. I generally try to keep off the major roads during the busiest periods. I'd definitely not fancy trying to deal with the M25 in rush hour in one. That's terrifying enough in a modern car.
Simply put...It's a tiny little fibreglass three wheeled car from the 70s...Just use some common sense!
The first thing that you really need to do before getting
the ball rolling regarding "un-scrapping" the car and getting hold of a V5C
document is to actually confirm the identity of the vehicle you're working with.
During the period when these cars couldn't legally be driven, a fair few popped up with false identities. It also wasn't entirely unknown for repairers to simply swap registration plates from one car to another back in the day. Filling in a V62 form where the registration mark and VIN don't match can cause a world of pain down the line - for other owners not just you, so it's really important to confirm which vehicle you are actually working with before we start.
Helpfully, there is a gentleman by the name of Dez Roth who on behalf of the Invalid Carriage Register can help you out here. He has the expertise to cross reference the numbers that you have to confirm if things match. He's also compiled a database of surviving vehicles, so would very much like to know if you have a survivor in your hands anyway.
He can be contacted by E-Mail at the following address: email@example.com
Once the actual identity of the car has been confirmed,
you need to fill in the V62 (Application for a vehicle registration
The information you need to fill in here is pretty self explanatory for the most part.
If the vehicle does have an active "scrapped" marker against is file, the DVLA will likely send you a V894 form to complete and asking for photographs of the vehicle. This shouldn't be interpreted as an indication that anything is wrong, it's simply them asking for confirmation that the car does indeed still exist and that the identity matches what you have put on the V62. Include clear photographs of the vehicle from the front, side and rear and showing the VIN plate with the frame number clearly visible.
For vehicles not used prior to 1983 they will almost definitely send out the V894 as the record of the car will have been archived prior to the computerisation of the DVLA records.
When you get the V5C back in your name, contrary to what a lot of people think you DO NOT need to make any further changes to the listed body type or wheel plan. A lot of advice I see flying around says that you need to change the wheel plan to 3-wheeler, tricycle etc - you absolutely do not. Even if it says "NOT RECORDED" for the wheel plan, that is absolutely fine.
If you want to know something that hasn't been addressed here or on TPA's main page, probably the best person to contact is Dez Roth, who as I mentioned above does quite a lot of research work for the Invalid Carriage Register. He's quite the fountain of knowledge on the subject, and if he doesn't know something will probably know who to ask. Alternatively you're welcome to drop me an email directly and I'll try to help - though Dez is the first person I'll likely ask if I don't definitely know the answer off the top of my head.
Page change log:
21sst December 2022: Corrected engine model number to reflect that different variants were used over the years, added link to main Invacar page.
1st November 2022: Initial version created.