Sinclair C5 was second design of Sinclair Vehicles, company established by British electronics enterpreneur Sir Clive Sinclair (who was behind Sinclair computers ZX80, ZX81 and Sinclair Spectrum). Sir Clive was huge enthusiast of electric cars and in 1979 he started to work on C1 concept car that would be propelled singly by electric motor. That project never reached the prototype stage (partly due to changes in the law forced by bicycle manufaturers lobbying). In 1983 new design, C5, was started, again with help of Ogle Design and within 2 years the final version of the vehicle was ready. Yes, a vehicle, because Sinclair C5 is not actually a car, itís tricycle that was described as "electrically assisted pedal cycle". Spectrum C5 was the only model from Sinclair Vehicles (although two more were planned), the company closed in 1985 due to poor sales figures of C5.
Why is it legendary?
Sinclair C5 was a disaster - soon after the premiere media begun to point out the flaws of the construction. First of all, the speed (only around 15mph), secondly the range (about 20 miles), and thirdly open cabin that was curious idea since the vehicle was produced in Great Britain, where weather is far from being in favor of such ideas.
C5 was referred to as "one of the great marketing bombs of postwar British industry", because it was virtually impossible to find any target group that would be intereted in buying it. Sinclair was hoping that it would appeal to those, who were looking for alternative to their cars and bicycles, but the final product had absolutely no strong points that would appeal to any of them. Sir Clive himself tried to show how businessmen can use it in the traffic, but it looked ridiculous, lacked the weatherproofing and the driverís safety was marginal.
Sinclair C5 was interesting approach to early electric car constructions, but the concept had lots of flaws and virtually no merits. Very short range and low speed made C5 impractical and thousands of unsold vehicles became collectibles.