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Latest disability car may have been used by former Prime Minister


Sep 18, 2016

Nelco SolcarA renowned artist whose latest project involves the collection of historic disability cars has added a new vehicle to his fleet – and it may have previously been driven by Sir Winston Churchill.

Simon Mckeown, a Reader and Principle Lecturer in the School of Design, Culture and the Arts at Teesside University, now owns over a dozen of the iconic cars, which date from the 1930’s to the 1970’s.

He is using them to create a virtual museum and ignite a discussion about the social history of disability.

Simon’s latest acquisition is a historic Nelco Solcar, manufactured in Surrey in 1937 and with a chassis number of 2041.

He understands it came from the Ministry of Defence Store in Gloucestershire to Sunderland in 1980, where garage owner and vehicle specialist Cyril Campbell partially restored and repaired it.  It was then kept in the Campbell family for 30 years and they have seen old black and white video footage of Sir Winston Churchill driving a vehicle which looked exactly the same.

Simon said: “This is an enthralling project which provides excellent examples of the UK’s disability and manufacturing heritage.

“I was contacted to see if I would be interested in adding the Nelco Solcar to my collection and was fascinated to learn of its history and potential connection to Churchill.”

Simon has now taken over the restoration of the vehicle and wants to know if anybody has any information or images of Sir Winston Churchill using the car. It is thought he may have used the car in his old age. If anybody has any details, they can contact Simon at s.mckeown.tees.ac.uk.

Invalid Carriages, or Invacars as they were also known, used to be given out by the NHS to help disabled people become independent. All Invacars were owned by the government and leased to disabled drivers as part of their disability benefit.

Simon, who is himself disabled, remembers his granddad having an Invacar and the vehicles represent fond childhood memories.

“They were extremely primitive by today’s standards, wobbly with three wheels and only suitable for one person,” explained Simon.

“You were not allowed to carry passengers, meaning the cars would often break down and it was a common sight to find people stranded on their own.

“There is great beauty in these vehicles and they tell a story of disability and automotive engineering history.”

Simon started collecting Invacars three years ago and has a vehicle for every decade they were manufactured, including the Invacar Mark 8B, the only car of its type in the world which was imported back to the UK from Australia.

Invacars were discontinued in 2003 and the Government ordered over tens of thousands to be crushed – though a small number were hidden away or forgotten about and they are now popular collectors’ items. It is believed there are just over 300 left in the world today.

Simon has plans to turn his collection into a virtual museum for people to find out more about the history and context of Invacars.

By Emily