Sinclair C5

Sinclair C5: A Piece of Britain's Tech History

The Sinclair C5 electric vehicle is one of the strangest and most fascinating creations in the history of transport. The brainchild of computer magnate Sir Clive Sinclair, the C5 was intended to be an affordable electric vehicle that would lead to the development of larger and more ambitious models. However, its small size, short-range, low speed, and an open cockpit made the C5 a flop when it was released in 1985.

Why is the Sinclair C5 so rare?

Due to Clive Sinclair's fame, the launch of the C5 received extensive press coverage. However, this public attention wasn't matched by sales. Only about 5,000 units were sold before Sinclair Vehicles went out of business. Unsold models from the original production run also became collectable after the company's collapse, but even those only amounted to another 9,000 units. Over the years, interest in this unique historical vehicle continued to grow, resulting in a thriving community of collectors. With interest high and numbers low, the Sinclair C5 became a sought-after item.

C5 component checklist

The Sinclair C5 had a number of removable parts or additional accessories. Like all small pieces, these had a tendency to get lost, meaning that even some complete C5 vehicles don't have them. If you're looking to buy a complete vehicle, make sure that your purchase includes the following items:

  • Both keys. The original C5 came with a key for the power switch and one for the boot.
  • Front wheel cover.
  • Outer and inner rear wheel covers.
  • Optional extras, such as wing mirrors, high visibility mast, horn, and indicators.

Is the Sinclair C5 a bicycle or a car?

Clive Sinclair insisted that his creation was a "vehicle" rather than a car. Since it has pedals, the Sinclair C5 is sometimes called a "C5 electric bike", but this label is also inaccurate. The C5 has two rear wheels and one front wheel, making it a tricycle rather than a bicycle.

Tested and untested C5s

Not all Sinclair C5 vehicles are alike, so make sure you're buying the one that's right for you. Some C5s are fully tested and working; the electrical systems are functioning and the battery has been replaced. This may mean that the vehicle has been modified to accept a modern battery. Note that a C5 listed as untested isn't necessarily not working. It simply means that without a battery it hasn't been possible to check whether the electrical systems are functioning.