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Sinclair C5- 1985

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The Sinclair C5 is a 3-wheeled battery operated vehicle created by Sir Clive Sinclair- inventor of the first slim-line pocket calculator, the first digital watch, and numerous personal computers. Development began in the 1970s and progressed slowly until 1983 when British legislation changed to allow sale of such a vehicle. The C5 is a recumbent tricycle steered by handles on either side of the driver’s seat, and it may be either pedaled or battery powered. Its low top speed, 15mph, allowed it to be driven in Great Britain without a driver’s license.

The C5 suffered many design problems. Cold weather would shorten the battery life, the driver was exposed to the elements, and the low height was a major safety concern as riders were hard to spot by other drivers on the road. An extra battery, side curtains, and a reflector on a pole addressed these concerns. Other problems, such as the non-adjustable seat and a motor overheating problem on long climbs were not addressed. Impractical for the climate and possibly dangerous on busy roads, sales never took off and the company quickly closed. Many of the problems could have been avoided by doing a little real-world testing – instead, Sir Clive trusted his design as it was drawn – “it looked perfect on paper.”

In November 2010, Sir Clive announced that a new, “rethought” Sinclair model, the X-1, is in prototype testing and is slated for a July 2011 release in the UK, at a price of ₤595. As of 2018, it has not yet been introduced.


Manufacturer: Sinclair Vehicles, Ltd.
Country of Origin: England
Engine: Electric
Top Speed: 15 mph
Year of Production: 1985
Number Produced: Fewer than 17,000
Original Cost: £399