1985 "Oh God What have I done" sorry, Sinclair C5

I’ll try and keep this relatively short for now as it’s late and I have no pics, and I’m knackered, and I’ve got some Cheese and Bacon pasties due out of the oven in er, 7 minutes.

I’m sure by now most of the forum has seen the picture of me from 4 years ago that could have been taken in the mid to late 80s, action hair and all:

Well, that there C5 belonged to one of my mates and I’d helped him get it going after we rescued it from a garage covered in bird cack, but he sold it shortly afterwards much to my disappointment. I had wanted to buy it, but I was a poor student.

Roll forward 4 years and that same event is looking for a Sinclair C5. I was moderately famous among friends and acquaintances for it, and I’d had a hankering for one since then. I started having a look around on eBay but prices have gone up massively, what his sold for would now get you a total wreck in need of full restoration.

I was looking at unrelated things on a local selling page and almost as if a sign from the Jesus appeared, there was one there. Looked a bit dirty and missing a few bits, but it was there. The asking price was very high, but I thought I’d look out of curiosity anyway.

I’ve gone on a bit here, so er, CONTINUED AFTER PASTY BREAK.

Right pasties were pretty spot on - Greggs Cheese and Bacon wraps for anyone interested.

Anyway, went for a look at it and the bits missing in the pictures were actually there, as there were about £100 worth of replacement wheel covers I was quite happy. It’s been stood in a garage for 20+ years, has loads of dust on it and the tyres are completely flat and shot. Electrics are all there, but no idea of working condition, and the original wiring has been modified to take a car battery.

Naturally then I decided to make an offer. I didn’t expect much as it was a lot less than was being asked, but we came to a very reasonable price, went up tonight in my mates V6 Passat Estate Panzer Tank and brought it home.

I’ll grab some better pictures tomorrow as it was dark when I got back today, but these are the only ones I have from the listing.

As you can see, totally knackered - exactly how I like them. The one in the top picture was in a much worse state than this to look at, so I’m hopeful it’ll come good. I’ve got a deadline to meet in a few weeks anyway. And despite being a little shorter these days - the action hair will return.


oh my, help us all

Looks cool, and hope those pastries were good!


I remember the stories when these first came out about them being modded by replacing the motors with those from higher spec vacuum cleaners.
I also had to laugh when Citroen brought out their C5 - I guess the original never sold in France


I’m pretty sure it didn’t particularly sell anywhere :stuck_out_tongue:

There are some seriously fast/dangerous (delete as applicable) ones around with beefed up drivetrains or there are a couple with jet engines even. They seem to have found a following in the Netherlands, those guys fit geared rear hubs and fat motors with lithium batteries and god knows what.

Oh man that looks like stupid mad fun potential.

I wonder if it’s possible to source one of those down under…

I realise this is exactly the same picture pretty much, but this is in the light, as I started.

I got home later than I wanted to tonight but managed to get a couple of things done. I’ve started cleaning up the seat at least, refitted the chain tensioner and chain, but the chain has a few links that are rusted solid so it’s duff.

The rear brake is sticking on, and I stuck a battery onto it which resulted mostly in the clicking of the relay with only intermittent motor action, and absolutely no life at all from the pod upfront. As I said above - totally knackered. :stuck_out_tongue:

On the plus side, the 30 odd year old inner tubes and tyres miraculously actually hold pressure, and the headlight works. :joy: Still, I’ve got a good idea of what I’m starting with now.


The race is on to see who will finish first.
You and the C5
Carlover and the MR2

My money’s on Carlover :wink:


Just to be a contrarian git I’ll put 5 automation simoleons on Adam :stuck_out_tongue:

1 Like

Add me and a cabrio in the summer to this race unless one of them somehow finishes before then (C5 has a ever so slight chance.)

Unless Adam gets tired of the C5 is 6 months time and sells it to buy a Carina, he will win easily, possibly by years.


That thing looks like you need to move the decimal point on your life insurance premium one step to the right.:fearful:

I’ve ridden one on the road a few years ago and found it absolutely terrifying. A Suzuki Alto has never been so intimidating.

1 Like

Then imagine the scene from the movie “51 State”, where the main characters sit in a Mini(original one) at a redlight between two full size trucks.:smiling_imp:

1 Like

I only just recently learned that these were actually produced. I remember seeing a picture of it in some book in the early nineties. I think the book was about what future technology might be like. I don’t remember what it said about the Sinclair C5 but back then I got the impression that it was just a prototype or concept vehicle or something and since I never saw any of those in Finland I forgot about it. Now I want one. I love that eighties/early nineties futuristic aesthetic.


Wait…that steering wheel position… you steer it by basically… adjusting your butt cheeks with your hands?

Haha, not quite but not far off. The bar is under where your knees bend and doesn’t rotate very far, it’s like a recumbent bike.

That is a weird AF mode of transportation :smiley: I like

Right, not faffing around with this one. Want to get it going before I put time into making it look nice (to a point). No point having it shiny and immobile. Something about deadlines and all that.

So, as mentioned above, the pod gauges up the front were dark with power connected, and the motor would sometimes pop the wheel round a couple of degrees, but not a lot else. Previously on my friends a few years ago, I knew the pod was fixed by replacing a popped resistor in the rear control box, but never really knew why and never looked into it. As it obviously had an issue, along with the motor, I decided to pull both out, along with the pod and it’s wiring.

There’s not a lot to the Control Box, it’s quite a neat unit:

Even more so with the motor relay and shunt out of the way:

After speaking with Mr Electronics @pyrlix this morning and following circuit diagrams, we found that section of circuitry on the left there with the 5v regulator is there for just that - providing 5v to the LEDs in the Pod at the front. Keen eyed viewers will already notice the resistor I mentioned previously has gone pop again, quite a common issue.

You can just make out a small crack and the burn mark there.

Thankfully that’s all I seemed to find here. No blown diode from rolling the C5 backwards, but the regulators can appear to work initially then refuse to output 5v when there is load on the 12v side, causing the pod to go dark when riding. I picked up a spare when I got the resistors. As the control box appears to be OK, that brings us nicely to the next issue - the dead motor.

After I pulled it I tried connecting it directly to a good car battery, which resulted in absolutely nothing. I found that if you helped it turn a bit when it was connected it’d spring into life, albeit turning far slower than it should and would then stick again if you tried to knock it off and back on.

I got to pulling it apart tonight, the first problem being that the gearbox was almost impossible to remove from the end. This bit:

You have to lift up those little plastic fingers and tap it off, but mine resulted in much swearing and Clarksoning to remove. It was almost completely dry of grease inside, which wasn’t surprising given the fart on I had removing it. Inside that casing is a funny little planetary gear set:

Once that was off I could get at the actual motor workings, and aside from cobwebs and dead spiders falling out, it didn’t look too hot in there:

That rust has slightly scored the resin the magnets sit in inside the housing, the bearings at either end were stiff, and I’m sure anyone can see the problem with the commutator. The brushes were also sticking slightly instead of moving freely. Fortunately they cleaned up easily, and that rust on the armature there just came off with a light sanding. The bearings freed up with some oiling and turning for a while, that just left this bugger to contend with:

The surface was smooth with no scoring, so I was a bit reluctant to go at it with anything abrasive. My brother jokingly suggested something at this point.

Cillit Bang wouldn’t be of much use here surely? I figured it could do no harm as long as I didn’t use much and got it all back off, so as I’d conveniently bought some to clean the body with, I thought I’d give it a go.

All together now - “Limescale, rust, ground in dirt, they’re a challenge for some household cleaners - but not for CILLIT BAAAANG”

BANG, and the dirt is gone! This is after one going over with just a few drops on a bit of paper towel - seriously impressed. This was using the limescale and shine power foam version if anyone wants to use this in any future motor rebuilds. :stuck_out_tongue:

Bolted the lot back together with some fresh grease in the gearbox, connected it to a battery, fired right up and spins along quickly and quietly. Restarts properly when power is re-applied to.

All being well I should get the Control Box repaired in the morning. It only seems fitting that as I mentioned in my opening post this C5 was a message from the Jesus that it’s resurrection is on the same day as the man himself :joy: (touches all pieces of wood within arms reach).

BONUS: Can anyone else remember this gem from early Youtube, or is it just me?


This will definitely be finished before the MR2. All I’ve done so far is vacuum the inside and knock off some rot and bondo.

The better question will be is the C5 done before @Microwave’s Coupé. But at the speed Adam is going that doesn’t look that close either.

1 Like