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THIS STORY LAST UPDATED: 24 February 2004 1300 GMT
Me and my C5
Simon Webb and his C5

Frankie Goes to Hollywood's Relax might have been banned and Britain's coal miners were on strike, but in 1984 there were hopes that the new Sinclair C5 would revolutionise the way we got about. Twenty years on and the dream still remains.

It's 1984 and it's dark and Simon Webb is coming home from Dorcan on his brand new Sinclair C5.

At a steady 12 mph he makes his way towards the Coate Water roundabout; as he does a police patrol car passes him, appearing to show very little interest in this rather unusual road user.

But a few minutes later, the patrol car returns and pulls Simon over into a convenient lay-by.

C5 detailSimon dutifully brings his machine to a halt and wonders to himself what kind of rough ride he's in for.

He knows he doesn't need a crash helmet, tax or insurance and he's adamant that he was well within the speed limit - after all his C5 has a top speed of 15 mph. So why have the police pulled him over?

The two police officers get out of their vehicle and make their way towards Simon and his C5.

"Evening sir," says one of the patrolmen politely, "sorry to have stopped you but to be honest we just can't quite believe what we've just witnessed."

Simon casts his mind back to the last five minutes; what on earth had he done to cause this patrol car to return and pull him over? He couldn't think what he had done wrong.

"I mean, sir, this is the first time that me and my colleague have actually seen one of these new C5s. What's it like to drive? Any chance of having a go?"

Simon couldn't quite believe his ears. Here were two Swindon police officers asking if they could go for a spin in his C5!

Before he knew it, he watched as his machine was driven away by one of the patrolmen. When they returned the second policeman had a go. Then they got on their radio and invited another patrol to come and have a look. Before long it seemed that Swindon's entire force were heading their way to Coate Water to pay homage to this newest form of personal transport.

Simon Webb
Simon Webb and his Sinclair C5

After the C5 had been road tested by Swindon Division, all Simon was worried about was whether or not he had enough battery power to get him home!

But Simon and his C5 made it back to his house and twenty years on, he's still happy to tell the story and show his machine to anyone who's interested.

The C5 was a battery powered one-seater three-wheeler which could reach a maximum speed of 15 mph and incorporated pedal power for starting off and helping get up hills.

It was heralded as the beginning of a new era in electrically driven motorised transport.

Developed by the man who brought us the first electronic pocket calculator, the C5 was Clive Sinclair's futuristic idea of personal transport.


audio Click here to listen to Simon talking to BBC Wiltshire about the background to his Sinclair C5.

audio Click here to listen to Simon showing just what his C5 is capable of.

• Audio requires Real Player. Click here for more information.

gallery Click here to see our gallery of images showing Simon's C5 in more detail - and find out why a number 'plate' was essential.

Sinclair C5

John O'Groats to Land's End by C5

Planet Sinclair

But it was ridiculed by the press and wasn't to be a winner so far as the buying public was concerned - despite Sir Clive's dream to introduce a C10 and a C15.

The C5 consisted of a Lotus-designed steel chassis on which was mounted an polypropylene body - the largest single piece of injected-moulded plastic ever produced.

A single seat allowed the driver to pedal the C5, when required, and a set of handlebars mounted just below the driver's legs controlled the power, brakes and steering.

Simon Webb, who now lives in Grange Park, bought his machine in 1984 from the Comet store in Swindon for £399 (around £790 in today's money).

"I remember paying the deposit and then a few weeks later my new C5 arriving at the door in a large cardboard box," says Simon.

He told BBC Wiltshire that he bought it as a way to commute to Groundwell - not as some kind of fun thing to be used at weekends only.

"I used the C5 as daily transport but it proved not reliable enough and I ended up passing it on to my two nephews."

As well as not being particularly reliable, the C5 was also prone to tipping over due to the sensitive steering and, being so low to the ground, C5 drivers would often feel intimidated by other road users - particularly large articulated lorries!

However, despite these set-backs, Simon agrees that as an environmentally-friendly and fuel efficient form of transport, the C5 certainly offered the commuter an alternative way of getting to work but may be it was just launched in the wrong decade.

In these greener times it would be interesting to see how successful the C5 would be if it was re-launched today - afterall, the Smart car with its compact shape and fuel-efficiency has been relatively successful - it just seems that Sir Clive's C5 arrived too soon for the 80s go-getta to take it seriously.

Tell us about your C5 experiences

Your name:

Your comment:

What is it... What does it do? Is it a car/bike/boat/vacuum cleaner?? I dont know

i forgot
will someone buy me one for my birthday, i lost mine and btw my birthday is on the 30th of november so get spending!

every time i go out in mine, i get stopped,as people want to take a photo of it.

I remember seeng one some mornings going through Gorse Hill towards Groundwell when they first came out. Looked like a real death trap !!!!

Wouldn't it be easier to ride a bike to work?

My grandfather owns 2 - both came from Dauntsey's school.

Jon Fletcher
I wouldn't be seen dead in one !!!! HOW EMBARASSING !!

I have two one is in bits and the other full working. They are great fun and i intend to use them to get to school and back!

I currently have three of them and sold the fourth one i had to a mate in the local pub.They're great fun in the summer for nipping to the local for a quick pint.My C5 still puts a smile on my face and anyone who "gives it a go". Not a bad hobby from a 19 year old "failure".

I wold love to own one but just have not found that right one yet.

cool i want one


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