The Sinclair C5 is one of the weirdest vehicles that was ever built in the UK and it is set to celebrate its 30th birthday.
At the time when it was released, the Sinclair C5 gained muted interest from the public. However, since then, the vehicle has gained a reputation for being an icon of design for the 1980’s. What’s more, it is considered a pioneer of alternative-fuelled transport.
The Sinclair C5 was thought up by the inventor and entrepreneur Sir Clive Sinclair, who created it to be an alternative to travelling by car, bus or bike for one person that is fast and cheap to run. It was available for £399 and could be driven for five miles on only a penny’s worth of electricity.
This vehicle used pedal power as well as an electric motor to move, while the driver sat in its open plastic body shell at the mercy of the elements.
It had handlebars with steering, braking and acceleration controls that were found under the driver’s knees.
Lotus Cars was drafted in to build the three-wheeled backbone chassis, which was made out of steel.
The Sinclair C5 could reach a top speed of 15 mph, as restricted by law. It did this with the use of an electric motor that powered the rear wheel on the left-hand side.
No licence was required to drive a Sinclair C5 because it only needed one button to be pressed for it to move. So, anyone over the age of 14 was allowed to drive one.
There was a rumour, later proved to be untrue, that the Sinclair C5 was powered by a washing machine motor. This was because it was built by the Hoover company at its factory in Wales.
The press and public had their doubts about the vehicle. It was noted that the Sinclair C5 was vulnerable when used on the road as it stood at only two feet and seven inches off the ground. It also only had a range of 20 miles on one battery charge because of the limitations of battery technology at the time. What’s more, it had no protection against the rain, although the “weather cheater” poncho was offered as an accessory for the driver to wear in these conditions.
As a result of these factors, the production life of the Sinclair C5 was short-lived. While it was thought that 100,000 units would be sold each year, only 9,000 had been built by October 1985. This was after production ended and the company that had been set up to produce the vehicle collapsed.
Before Sir Clive built the single-seater Sinclair C5, he had experimented with building much larger designs as he was fascinated by electric vehicles. Later, he said that the Sinclair C5 was hoped to fund the development of a four-seater electric vehicle that could get up to 80 mph. Yet this never happened because the Sinclair C5 failed to sell enough.
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