BBC Home
Explore the BBC
Search ON THIS DAY by date
Front Page |  Years |  Themes |  Witness
About This Site | Text Only
1985: Down Memory Lane in the Sinclair C5
The battery-powered Sinclair C5 hit the roads of Britain more than two decades ago.

It was hoped the one-seater electric tricycle, invented by Sir Clive Sinclair, would revolutionise travel.

But it failed to entice buyers, was ridiculed in the press and even prompted fears about its safety.

Nevertheless the C5, once owned by Princes William and Harry, has achieved cult status and collectors are snapping them up as investment items.

Your memories:

Just looking at your "On This Day" page brought back many memories of my involvement with the C5.

Working at that time for Lotus Cars I was responsible for the engineering design, development and testing of this vehicle and remember very clearly doing the TV interviews for BBC on launch day.

There are many funny stories and events that occured during that time at Lotus that I still laugh about today that your page has just been reminded of.

Brian Spooner, UK

At the time of the launch of the Sinclair C5 I was a car salesman in Surrey selling Datsun cars.

These cars were the "bees knees" at the time and we were all waiting with apprehension and concern for the launch of this electric car as we thought it was going to give us some stern competition.

The panic never started and I waited for months before I actually saw one on the road driving past our showroom window.

Thus started my mad interest in this electric vehicle. Since that day at every motor museum I ever went to I always spent more time looking at the C5 and De-Lorean's (that's another story) on show than anything else.

Eventually I acquired one of my own which is my pride and joy and a great way of nipping around the village during summertime.
Graham Motuel, England

I'm one of the few people who have driven one of these any distance.

Back then I worked in Dixons head office in Edgware, who were sent a sample to evaluate.

One day the board, or some members of it, decided to take it out for a spin - or rather, find some fool to drive it up and down the bit of dual carriageway immediately outside Dixon house.

My director volunteered me - I think on the basis that I rode a motorcycle and thus had a casual attitude to life.

I then spent the next hour driving up to the local roundabout, around it, back past HO and then onto Colindale and back again.

Sometimes I used the battery power, sometimes I pedalled. Once the battery ran out I just pedalled.

Despite what everyone said it wasn't that scary. Certainly not much more frightening than an underpowered moped or a bicycle. My main worry was if I failed to brake I would disappear under a lorry.

After about an hour and a half, I returned to the office and never got to ride one again.
Stephen Spicer, UK

I remember the adverts being shown on telly for the C5 like it was yesterday, being 14 I could only dream of the mischief and freedom one would bring to the life of a normal teenager like myself.

Four hundred pounds was out of my budget though.

My brother saw an advert for test drives in a C5 around a car park in Leicester.

Being the generous older brother that he was took me and paid for me to have a go.

I was hooked, what amazing fun! Unfortunately for whatever reason the whole project folded and the remaining C5s were sold off..for the bargain price of 149.

I snapped one up. I wore out several sets of tyres driving to school, badminton club or wherever I could reach with the range it had.

With heavy usage and my limited technical knowledge I found it harder and harder to keep it going, until one day my Dad put it in storage where it subsequently vanished never to be seen again.

Years later circa 2000/2001 I was chatting to someone in a pushbike shop and he mentioned the boss had some C5s in storage.

I bought five! Two more joined the fleet after that, not sure why, if analysed I think it must be something to do with hanging on to happy childhood memories and making sure I'll always have one.

My friends all say I am barmy, as does my wife, but nobody refuses a go because they are hysterical fun.

Maybe, as other people have said, if it had been marketed a bit differently it may have been more of a success?
Mark Koeberle, UK

I remember seeing the launch on the TV news on 10 January 1985. Later that night the TV advert was shown.

I'd built my first computer - a Sinclair ZX80 - then graduated through the other Sinclair machines throughout the 1980s. Sir Clive could do no wrong! When my wife saw the C5 on TV she was worried, because she knew I'd want one!

I couldn't afford to buy one at the 399 launch price. As the project failed, the prices came down, and I bought my C5 in November 1985, for just 139.

The driver delivered it in a huge box, with one piece of advice - "Make sure you keep the tyres well pumped-up".

I've still got it today, and it still works. I've also turned it into a hobby by creating a C5 web site. The C5 was never going to replace the car, and if Sinclair had marketed it as a fun, leisure vehicle, it may have been a success.
Roy Woodward, UK

How could I forget the Sinclair C5?

It was claimed to be the transport of the future. My father owned a Sinclair computer in the mid 1980s and we had a lot of fun trying out new programmes and creating games, long before Microsoft 95 came.

Sinclair put up a lot of ads about his new transport in the papers and had the media claiming traffic problems would be revolutionised thanks to his Sinclair C5.

There was some big fuss and it never took off. I don't know why but to me (I was only 7 at the time) it looked uncomfortable and very bizarre.
Ruairi McGovern, Ireland

I was very much into all the Sinclair stuff as a kid, what with using a Sinclair ZX Spectrum at school and then getting one for Christmas in 1984, so the C5 was awaited with interest.

I couldn't understand at the time why the C5 failed - it seemed a great idea to me then - clean and cheap to run!

Towards the end of their life, I remember seeing them being sold off for 50 in a Seaboard showroom. If only I'd had enough money to buy one back then!
Ali Booker, UK

 E-mail this story to a friend

BBC presenter Craig Doyle on C5
The electric tricycle has achieved cult status - do you own one?

Sir Clive Sinclair
The C5 was a commercial failure for inventor Sir Clive Sinclair
Graham Motuel
Graham Motuel says his C5 is great for nipping to the village shops
Roy Woodward
Roy Woodward thinks the C5 should have been marketed differently

Witness Stories

Web Links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Search ON THIS DAY by date

^^ back to top
Front Page |  Years |  Themes |  Witness
©MMVIII | News Sources | Privacy & Cookies Policy