C5 – It’s Alive!

Back in July 2013, someone in the office mentioned the beautiful iconic 80’s disaster that is the Sinclair C5.  Inevitably someone asked what they’re worth now, and apart from the fact they cost £400 new, was dropped to £199 shortly after and then the price plummeted like a stone, I had no idea.  So I turned to the reliable font of knowledge in these things; eBay.  Generally, they were going for more than I expected, then I came across this sorry little thing

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With 4 days to go, the price seemed far too low, despite it being described as “Spares or repair”, so, just for curiosity sake, I decided to watch the auction.  With 15 minutes to go the price was still too low, so I bid a stupidly low price… and was the highest bidder!  But with 2 minutes to go, I got outbid!  Well, the eBay red mist had descended, and I wasn’t having any of that, so I bid again… and won it for £34.56!  What the hell was I going to do now?

It was located just the other side of Birmingham, so the following weekend I drove just over an hour to pick it up.  Due to the large LPG tank in the car, I wasn’t actually sure I could even get it in, but, with clever jiggling it will go in upside down with the saddle over the tank.  Getting it home revealed just what I’d let myself in for;

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It was just a chassis, a body shell and just a few other trivial parts.  And all of those were in pretty poor condition.  No wheels.  No motor.  No electrics.  No handlebars.  No pedals.  No axle.  No axle mountings.

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So, first job was to strip it all down.  Luckily, due to the lack of parts, this didn’t take long!

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Although there was some surface rust, the chassis wasn’t actually that bad, so I cleaned that up, sanding all the rust back to bare metal and took it off to the spray booth at Nottingham Hackspace

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With a bit of scrubbing with Cillit Bang, the body didn’t actually come up too bad.  It looks like it had been sprayed red at some point in its life though, and a couple of big scratches needed some sanding to get rid of.

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Meanwhile, I’d started to source as many other parts as I could from eBay or the C5 Owners Club.  £23 for a set of wheels, plus £51.50 for a chassis that included almost all the other bits I needed to get a pedal powered C5.  Including paint, inner tubes, fuel and other odd bits I was now looking at over £150!


With all the bits stripped off the 2nd chassis and cleaned up I was able to start building my one up


My biggest concern was the rear axle.  Luckily all the bits were there to mount it securely, and the brake pads even had a fair bit of life left in them.  (Note to the observant – yes, rear brakes are only on the right hand side.  The left hand side is the driven wheel. Great idea Clive!)


Gradually it started to take shape!

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Although I had the original front brake (2 of them in fact due to the 2nd chassis purchase), this Diacomp MX bike from an old BMX looks much more up to the job!


I didn’t have a chain tensioner either.  The original ones are notoriously dodgy anyway, and a decent modern replacement would add an extra 15% to my current build costs.  Instead, I opted for a derailleur gear bolted to a shelf bracket :-)


Once the body was back on it was actually possible to pedal the thing around!



Ok, so the handlebar grips aren’t original.  Neither are the brake levers.  Or the pedals.  But it does, however, allow it to be ridden/driven/piloted around!


My goal for stage 1 was to turn this scrap heap junker in to something that could be used as a vehicle.  It doesn’t have all the cosmetic fancy pants things like decals, a boot, lights or wheel trims.  And it doesn’t even have the basic stuff that made the C5 famous like a battery, motor, or indeed electrics of any kind at all.  And it may have been put together on a tight budget that actually far exceeded the value of the thing, but it achieved its objective!1378667384

it is 6.5 miles from Nottingham Hackspace to home, and at the start of April, I set off from there and rode back* home.  Stage 1 complete.  Now for stage 2…



*With the safety net of James and Michelle in a van, I arranged to drive halfway back and be picked up.  But got there, felt good so carried on a bit more.  And again.  Until I had actually completed the distance, but ended up further from home than planned!