One morning I was stood outside a friends house waiting for him to get his bicycle out for the ride to school, when coming from down the road we hear a strange humming noise, a bit like the sound of a milk float. Looking down the road we both instantly crease up at the sight of some guy heading towards us in a Sinclair C5. As he trundled past we tried, and failed, to keep a straight face. That was the first and only time that I’ve ever seen a C5 being driven.
The Sinclair C5 was launched in January 1985, and was met with much ridicule by all and sundry. It was invented by UK brainbox Sir Clive Sinclair (better known for the ZX Spectrum of course) who for many years had dreamt of making a personal electric vehicle. It was basically a lean back style tricycle with the addition of a motor and battery. It had a range of around five miles and could travel at 15mph, which was chosen as the top speed so that it could be driven without a driving licence under UK law. If the battery ran out then a pair of pedals could still be used to power the vehicle, so you weren’t completely stranded.
Did it really deserve the ridicule it received? If it was ahead of its time then “the time” certainly still hasn’t arrived yet, and you did look pretty ridiculous driving it due to the way the steering handles were located roughly under your knees. It was claimed to be completely safe to drive, and I suspect it probably was, although I think I would personally feel a little afraid driving it on a busy road when a big lorry was overtaking due to it being so low to the ground.
The construction contract for the C5 was held by Hoover, the maker of vacuum cleaners and washing machines among other things. This led to the rumour that the C5 was powered by a washing machine motor, but this wasn’t actually the case. It cost Â£399 to buy, which wasn’t a bad price really, but since there wasn’t really any demand from the public the C5 didn’t last very long. Estimates suggest around 17,000 were manufactured, with only 12,000 being sold!
Check out the video clip below to see the C5 in action, and for more information about the first (and only?) personal electric vehicle take a look at the Sinclair C5 Enthusiasts site, which is full of fascinating information and a first hand account of the site owners C5 owning journey! Do you think I should have added the C5 to this weeks Saturday Survey perhaps? Maybe, trouble is it wasn’t black!
Update! Unfortunately my original choice of video clip has been taken down, so instead here’s a clip of a Sinclair C5 that has been given an overhaul and is now jet powered. Somehow I don’t think I’d want to drive a piece of flimsy plastic with a jet engine next to my backside…