Invacar – almost alive!

At the weekend, we finally managed to haul TWC the Invacar into the garage, after a frantic tidy-session that allowed me to squeeze her in there with Elly the 2CV – off the road for the winter.

I’ve been on a print deadline for Retro Japanese magazine, so actual tinkering time has been minimal. However, yesterday, I first decided to try and free off the engine. I’d already got it to turn, but a full revolution was out of the question. I’d tried squeezing oil into the bores, but with little improvement. Then I found my penetrating oil, and decided to give that a go. It even still had the little straw! Amazing.

Yes! We have revolution.

Finally! The engine now rotated freely. At this stage, I decided it was time to get some electricity in the car. I started with a battery I’d taken out of the Omega, when it became clear it was no longer up to supplying the necessary cold cranking amps to start a 2.5-litre turbo diesel. There was life…

Whoa! She lives!

The only thing that worked was the headlights. Odd! Then the windscreen wiper deigned to behave. The indicators were having none of it, and the ignition wouldn’t turn on. Then it did! I managed to find the fusebox, gave it a squirt with electrical contact cleaner and rotated the fuses, and that got the sidelights working.

Getting better!

Well, actually, it got me the nearside one. The offside one took a little longer to come on. It was all very odd. It really did feel like electricity was slowly making its way around the car. I then got brave and tried the starter, but it just clicked. So, I pinched Elly’s battery, a fancy li-ion item, and gave that a go. Same. So, I gently ‘stroked’ the Dynastart unit with a hammer, and you know what? It actually began to turn! It makes a gentle electric hum, and sounds nothing like a conventional starter motor.

A further brief spell of experimentation today delivered less satisfaction. Yes, it turns over nicely, but there’s not much hint of firing up yet. Still, the fluids are circulating, the oil pressure light goes off with cranking and I certainly feel like I’m a step further forward. Tomorrow, I plan to play ‘hunt the spark’ to make sure it’s actually reaching the spark plugs, and I might explore the carburettor a bit more too. The spindle was seized and I’m concerned that the air filter housing may have been dropping rusty crumbs into it…

To be continued!

The Invacar pair have landed!

I’m pleased to report that the Invacars are home! I scooped them up with a truck last week, as social media followers will already have seen, and they’re now adding some much needed glamour to my garden. Here’s the spares car, basking in the sun.

Invacar rear parts car

The spares project

There could well be some useful bits to be had from this one – the rear window for a start. Don’t fret though. What I don’t use will be sold on. Apparently, even the damaged body could be in demand from those who know how to repair glassfibre.

TWC, the one I’ll be restoring, sits outside my office window. Perhaps this is why I took time out from my busy day job to give her a wash.

Invacar blue three wheeler

A half-clean Invacar. TWC gets a wash.

AC Model 70s had the blue impregnated in the glassfibre apparently, but TWC is an Invacar Model 70, built in Thundersley, Essex – spot the winged badge on the nose, whereas ACs had a roundel. As you can see, my pressure washer did a good job of removing the muck,  but Invacars were painted, and some paint did come off as well. Mind you, I think that just highlights how poor the paint already was in places – it’s very bad on that front cover you can see, even before I started.

With the muck blasted off, I even got some cutting polish out to reduce that big mark on the front wing. The result?

Invacar

TWC all scrubbed up!

That’s better! She’s almost presentable now. I’m thrilled with the makeover. The next day, I set about clearing the broken glass out of TWC, as at some point in the past 14 years, something unfortunate had happened to the rear window. Just as I’d finished doing that, the postman arrived with a special package.

I’ve got the key!

Yes, an FS880 key. I probably shouldn’t tell you this, but nearly all Invacars have the same ruddy key, which is also shared with machinery as diverse as dump trucks and cash machines on some buses apparently.  Quite how one particular key became so popular, I don’t know, but it fitted the ignition switch and works in both doors – albeit one of the locks has semi-seized and I can’t quite unlock it.

I could unlock the rear engine cover though! What would I find beneath it?

Invacar Model 70 engine bay Steyr-Puch aircooled flat twin

Oooh, an actual engine! May be a little overgrown…

Well, there is an engine at least! I cleared out some of the dead plantlife and one or two cobwebs. I couldn’t turn the crankshaft pulley by hand, so I then whipped out both plugs and squirted in a bit of engine oil. With that done, I then applied a breaker bar gently to the fan, which then applied a turning force to the crank via those twin belts. That replicates the work of the Dynastart, which is housed within that fan. This acts as a starter motor and a generator in one. Clever, a like a lot of two-stroke microcars. I think it’s the first time I’d encountered such a device on a four-stroke engine.

But, I can’t get the engine to complete a full turn. It’s likely that the engine has decoked itself, with large chunks of combustion material in the cylinder head now preventing the piston from achieving full travel. I’ve had this on the 2CV before, when I dragged its spare engine out of my aunt’s damp shed after a decade, and fitted it to the 2CV. That time, I laughed in the face of danger and just started the engine. It’s been fine ever since, but it could also have gone spectacularly wrong, damaging pistons, cylinder head and possibly even crankshaft. So, the sensible thing to do is get the engine out, where it’ll be a lot easier to remove the heads and clean things up.

Probably no bad thing, as the electrics seem entirely dead, even when I connect up a jump pack, so it’s not like I was on the cusp of having it running anyway. The best I’d seen was a very mild flicker from the fuel gauge.

But, working on the car is not really very easy where it is, which was only meant to be a temporary resting place. My neighbours will be happy once I can get TWC rolling, and stash her away in the garage. Elly the 2CV will be happy if she still fits in the garage too…

New tyres and inner tubes are on their way, so hopefully I can achieve some movement before the weekend. It depends how easy it is to free off the brakes. I know the front wheel is turning, but the rears? Not so much…

As for how I got them home, all is revealed in the latest video.

 

The Invacar Story – I bought two!

Those who follow me on social media will already be aware that I have purchased a pair of Invacars. This is a hugely exciting development! This pair are actually part of a stash, that was advertised online. A friend first made me aware of them, and he was even good enough to visit the site and pick a couple out for me. He was going to have them himself, but it turns out he’s more sensible than I am, so he had second thoughts. Anyway, I’m very grateful for his efforts. Thanks Marc!

Via Marc and the owner, we managed to sort the deal out, and on Thursday, I actually got to visit the field of dreams. It was absolutely remarkable!

Lexus and Invacars

Comparisons. Lexus meets Invacars. The fog just adds to the unreal feel!

That’s about ten Invacars, which were part of the stash, but have now happily been claimed by another enthusiast. One who already holds a large parts stash for these cars. I suspect I’ll be doing business with this gentleman once I work out what I actually need.

Here’s my pair.

Invacar pair

My two Invacars! Lucky ol’ me.

The one on the left is a particularly early example of an Invacar Model 70. According to the club contact I’ve spoken to, the second one is an AC Model 70. AC designed these vehicles, to a standard specification. Invacar, which had been building invalid carriages since 1948, also built the Model 70, to this standard specification – so they look near-enough identical. AC has previous when it comes to rear-engined microcars – the Petite is an incredibly noisy little three-wheeler that it was producing alongside the fearsome Ace. AC was also building invalid carriages, initially to a similar design to Invacar, to meet government requirements, but then branching out slightly with the Model 57. Other manufacturers had their own designs, including the unfortunately named Tippen & Sons – not a great name for a three-wheeler manufacturer…

The first Model 70s were sold in 1971, and were a fair bit wider than previous designs, and therefore more stable. Sadly, not stable enough for some people, including Graham Hill. He was loaned one after a racing collision, and was so horrified he campaigned against them. That pressure built up until the government called a stop to production in 1977. Disabled people would now need to get normal cars converted. Shame.

However, the government allowed happy Model 70 owners to keep leasing their vehicles right up until 2003. Then, all of a sudden, the government decided the Model 70s should all be scrapped. Within a week, all of the Model 70s were rounded up, and should have been scrapped. In the case of this stash, the executioner’s axe never fell. They were parked up, to await scrapping, but it never happened. They have survived! The seller of the vehicles agreed to temporarily store these vehicles in 2003, but 14 years later, with the chap who brought them to the field deceased, he just wants the space back. He had sorrowful tales to tell of what the poor chap had been through collecting these cars, from owners (or rather, leasees) who were devastated to lose their lifelines. All very sad.

However, as these cars haven’t actually been scrapped, I’ve had a rare chance to save a pair.

Here’s what the ‘good’ one looks like on the inside.

Invacar interior

Inside my ‘good’ Invacar.

Not sure why there’s a bag of rock salt in there. Ballast perhaps? But, as you can see, all the controls are set for hand use. There’s a motorcycle-style throttle, while pushing the entire handlebar down operates the brakes. The doors slide forward, to make it easy to get in from a wheelchair. There’s room for the chair to be stashed next to the seat.

This one has covered over 28,000 miles, which is quite high for an Invacar. Not many got used for long journeys, though the 493cc Steyr-Puch aircooled flat twin is good for about 20bhp. Given the light weight of these vehicles (under 400kg), that’s enough to reach at least the motorway speed limit! Drive is transmitted via a single DAF-esque variable pulley set-up, to Fiat 500/126 driveshafts. Nice and simple, and it means they can go as fast backwards as forwards. What could possibly go wrong?

I’m not really sure how the standard specification came to include an obscure Austrian engine, though the company did sell its Haflinger off-roader in the UK, and that had a very similar engine (slightly larger I think).

Anyway, collection is being arranged, so I can get the vehicles to Wales and start the rebuild. I cannot wait to get started, then go for a drive! That should be possible too. Through hard work by the Invalid Carriage Register, it is possible to change the vehicle class to trike, so they can be made road legal, 14 years after they were unceremoniously banned.

Ian in invacar

Happy! Can’t wait to start the rebuild and go for a drive.

For more info and another look at these vehicles, check out my latest video!

Don’t forget, you can support these ridiculous projects via this page: https://hubnut.org/donate-2/

Many thanks!

Ian