The Sinclair C5 is a 100% electric vehicle that was released in Britain in 1985. At the time the company behind it believed that it was the future of personal transportation and that they would sell 200,000 to 500,000 of them annually.
Despite these projections just 14,000 Sinclair C5s would be manufactured. Today the C5 is remembered as a famous example of failure, however there are many enthusiasts in the UK and around the world keeping them running and on the road.
Fast Facts – The Sinclair C5
- Sinclair Vehicles Ltd was founded by Sir Clive Sinclair in 1983 specifically to design and build electric vehicles. The managing director was Barrie Wills, formerly of the DeLorean Motor Company.
- Sir Clive Sinclair is a famous computing pioneer in the UK who had amassed a fortune developing and selling pocket calculators, followed by home computers in the 1970s and 1980s.
- The Sinclair C5 was to be his next big thing, an unusual battery-powered electric recumbent tricycle with seating for one, and some trunk space in the rear.
- With a range of 20 miles (32 kms) a curb weight of 45 kgs (99 lbs) and a top speed of 15 mph (24 km/h), many considered the C5 too limited for regular daily use.
Britain’s “Next Big Thing”
There are many who believe that the Sinclair C5 was simply released into the world thirty years too early, and that a similar vehicle today would likely fair much better.
Above Image: This is an early infomercial about the Sinclair C5 from early in the company’s history, when it still seemed (to them) as though their new electric vehicle was set to take over the world.
There’s a lot to support the argument that the C5 appeared too soon, it’s now almost 40 years since the vehicle was introduced and the world is now awash with electric vehicles – including cars, SUVs, scooters, and bicycles.
It’s entirely likely that a modern C5 with improved range and speed would fair much better than its forebear from 1985.
In the early 1980s the executives at Sinclair Vehicles Ltd had projections of selling up to half a million C5s per year, of course this proved to be wildly optimistic.
Today the Sinclair C5 is often used as a metaphor for failure but against the odds there are thousands of them still in use by owners, and they’re increasingly seen as cult classics.
Interestingly the C5 has had many celebrity owners over the years including Sir Elton John, who had two, Princes William and Harry had one each for getting around the Kensington Palace estate before they were old enough to drive, and Sir Arthur C. Clarke had one sent to his home in Sri Lanka.
Some modern owners have modified their C5s with more modern lithium-ion batteries, more powerful electric motors, and at least one has added a jet engine. The fastest C5 in the world has been clocked at 150 miles per hour (240 km/h).
The Sinclair C5 Project Vehicle Seen Here
The C5 you see here is listed as having had just one owner from new. It’s been in long term storage and it only ever had light use.
The listing notes that it’s believed to be nearly complete, but that it will require a new battery and some mechanical attention before any driving is attempted.
The price guide is £500 – £1,000, and if you’d like to read more about it or register to bid you can visit the listing here.
Images courtesy of Bonhams + Sinclair Vehicles
Articles that Ben has written have been covered on CNN, Popular Mechanics, Smithsonian Magazine, Road & Track Magazine, the official Pinterest blog, the official eBay Motors blog, BuzzFeed, Autoweek Magazine, Wired Magazine, Autoblog, Gear Patrol, Jalopnik, The Verge, and many more.
Silodrome was founded by Ben back in 2010, in the years since the site has grown to become a world leader in the alternative and vintage motoring sector, with well over a million monthly readers from around the world and many hundreds of thousands of followers on social media.