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Sinclair C5 1985

Automobiles from 1980 > Extra about cars in 1980

Consumer electronics tycoon Sir Clive Sinclair had long considered making silent, emissions-free electric vehicles. In August 1983, new rules came into force allowing “electrically assisted cycles” to hit the road with no driver’s license, tax, insurance, or even helmet needed; they simply had to weigh under 132lb (60kg) and not exceed 15mph (24kph). Sinclair saw his chance, recognising that nothing prevented such a vehicle from being a tricycle. After selling shares in Sinclair Research to raise funds of £12 million, he formed Sinclair Vehicles, and hired Lotus to coordinate the engineering. It required a new 12-volt deep discharge lead-acid battery, and a small Italian electric motor. Handlebars mounted under the rider’s thighs were for steering. The low-drag, upper body was remarkable: the largest single plastic injection-molding ever offered in a consumer product. Christened the Sinclair C5, it was launched in London on January 10, 1985, at £428, including mail-order delivery. However, the C5 rolled into immediate controversy. Safety campaigners condemned it as unsafe and-in the British climate-uncomfortable. Some jibes were unfair, however; it didn’t have a washing-machine engine despite being assembled by Hoover, and was a bicycle or moped alternative, not a surrogate car. Manufacture stopped in August 1985, and Sinclair Vehicles went into receivership afterward. The C5’s failure scuppered a whole range of planned Sinclair electric vehicles.

Sinclair C5 1985

Sinclair C5 1985
PLACE OF ORIGIN  Warwick, Warwickshire, and Merthyr Tydfil, South Wales, UK
HISTORICAL STATUS  production “car”
ENGINE  electric motor
LAYOUT  rear-mounted engine driving one rear whee
BODYWORK  doorless/open, single-seater buggy
TOP SPEED  15mph (24kph)
NUMBER BUILT  approximately 12,000
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