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Who Will Service Your Sinclair C5?

This image was lost some time after publication.
This image was lost some time after publication.

How embarrassing. Sinclair's next big thing in the 80's, the Sinclair C5, can be serviced alongside your vacuum cleaner (wonder if this service promise holds up for the jet powered version). Something tells us that nobody with any kind of marketing skills was involved in this ad. 'Hey, let's associate our funny shaped, dangerously slow electric vehicles with an appliance that sucks! Capital idea chaps, well done.' Maybe the ads weren't as misguided as we imagine, considering the C5 sold as many as 17,500 of the little death machines. Still, if the Daily Telegraph's take on the the C5 is to be believed, the tiny trike really did suck...


I would not want to drive a C5 in any traffic at all. My head was on a level with the top of a juggernaut's tyres, the exhaust fumes blasted into my face. Even with the minuscule front and rear lights on, I could not feel confident that a lorry driver so high above the ground would see me. Small wonder that one of the accessories listed in the C5 brochure is a high and bright-red reflecting mast, said by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents [RoSPA] to be a 'must'.

(Daily Telegraph, 11 January 1985.)

Wow, all that and a 15 mph top speed? Sign us up.

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Merthyr Tydfil is indeed a real 'place'. In the Welsh valleys, ex-home of Hoover and now not much. Except the contribution to world haute cuisine that is the Pot Noodle factory. I originally come from about 20 miles away from there (now about 5000 miles away)

The C5 was built by Hoover as it 'made sense to Sinclair', maybe not because of their years of experience but because the thing had a washing machine motor.

I was 15 in 1985, too young to drive, and gazed with jealous eyes on the French and their powered bicycles, when I saw the C5 it looked like the transport system to Utopia.

I learnt that my local department store had one on dislpay so rode five miles on my bicycle to witness the future.

There it was, in the window, the white hot future of affordable public transport.

I went in and stealthily sat on it, steering bars under your thighs was a stupid idea from the start but it all seemed so futuristic. Well, unknown to me store had left the battery connected, so when I pushed the throttle button the thing flew straight forwards, with all the instant torque of a grey, washing machine motored cheese wedge and ploughed into the display of televisions, a particularly nice PYE Colour set toppled over and the screen smashed with the sound of a broken dream. The cops were called, as were my parents and a deal was struck to forget about the damage as "I could have been killed' (nice work Mom). The C5 disappeared from the store shortly afterwards and from the market not long after that. But never from my heart.

My first hoon.