Friday, 22 January 2010

This used to be the future.

Sinclair's C5; ahead of it's time.

I got to considering my motoring career thus far today. And it struck me; whilst I've alluded to most cars I've driven in past blogs, I've never actually written a proper road test. During the course of my life so far, I've driven some 6 different models, and I think it would be a fair and reasonable aim for me to chronicle them chronologically, over the next few days. So, here goes.

The first car I drove, some years ago, wasn't really a car as such. It's fairer to describe the Sinclair C5 as a vision of the future that didn't pay off. Sir Clive Sinclair had dreamed of a personal transport solution since he was a small boy; an electric vehicle to be used by one and all. His vision was not necessarily for an eco-vehicle, yet as a lightweight electric and pedal powered trike it was just that, a decade and a half ahead of it's time. As legislation dating from 1983 dictated that anybody over the age of fourteen was able to drive one with no licence, insurance, tax or safety gear, I did just that.

As I mentioned, I was only about fourteen when I drove the C5. I hadn't yet reached the lofty heights I now gaze down from. Yet, for a chap of normal size, the Sinclair seemed perfectly comfortable - the seat was well shaped and comfortable, the handlebars fell naturally to hand, and whilst not snug it didn't feel excessively big. Time, I thought, to release the brake and set off.

Ride comfort wasn't brilliant actually, but was better than I'd expected. It steered well, and was capable of what seemed like silly speeds. Silly given that with just one wheel governing the direction of travel, I turned in slightly quickly and nearly tipped the C5 - borrowed from a man watching on, ashen of face - onto it's side. I then decided the car/trike/toy wasn't as safe as it could have been.

There was another flaw. I drove this one on private land, with no significant traffic. Had I been on a busy main road, with juggernauts aplenty, and even cars bigger than, say, Fiestas, I would have felt very exposed and unsafe. I also hate to imagine how dead I'd be in a head on collision even with such a beast as the cat-killer, or Reliant Robin, to give it it's proper title.

In summary, then, the C5 is damn good fun as a plaything away from the roads. It might even be fun to source three or four and race them round a car park one evening with your mates. But as a mode of transport I cannot take the C5 seriously. It's too flawed to be a viable proposition. Dead prophetic, though. If you'd told me in 1985 that in twenty five years electric cars would be a big thing, even in hybrid form, I'd not have believed you. This is in part due to the fact that I would have been minus six years old, but mainly because the C5 seemed so laughable, the idea couldn't be taken seriously. How wrong we were...

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