Talking Motors: Is the world finally ready for the Sinclair?

Sir Clive Sinclair in his C5 - once voted the biggest innovation disaster of all time
Sir Clive Sinclair in his C5 - once voted the biggest innovation disaster of all time

Can you see a sign of the wave of new stuff disguised as old stuff slowing down any time soon?

Record players have been joined by items such as a new Kodak Super 8, a 10 megapixel camera which instantly produces prints a-la Polaroid and I’ve even seen cassettes appearing on shop shelves again.

You can tut at me if you like, but I’m evidently in the camp of people drawn to old stuff as I flip the record on my turntable and flick through the Haynes manual for my classic car.

A knock-on effect of this is that I’m also drawn to some of the new stuff disguised as old stuff – such as newly-released LPs.

But how much more can we squeeze out of this before we’ve gone too far?

I thought we had done that when Vauxhall revived the Viva name, but then we found out last week the Sinclair C5 was set for a comeback.

In 1985, when Sir Clive Sinclair launched his road-going electric vehicle capable of 15mph, we were engrossed in a much quicker Delorean in Back to the Future, listening to the likes of Wham! and Madonna and hearing about the hole in the ozone layer for the first time.

It was a time where the future was now, with CD-ROMs and Windows version 1.0 appearing alongside Sinclair’s pedal-assisted battery vehicle, and the chassis was designed by none other than Lotus. What a time to be alive.

But it flopped big time.

Only 5,000 of the 14,000 Sinclairs made were sold, and by the August the manufacturing company was in receivership.

Held back by pitfalls such as being open to the elements, being practically invisible to traffic and virtually incapable of negotiating hills led to the Sinclair’s downfall, and inevitable cult-status it now enjoys, with enthusiasts’ clubs and forums like any other classic car.

But was the reason it flopped because it was offered to us 30 years too soon?

That was the claim of Sir Clive’s nephew, Grant Sinclair, who is launching the Iris E-Trike which is set to be released this year.

At a cost of £3,500, it is a lot more than the £399 Sir Clive asked punters to pay for the C5 32 years ago, but with a bigger range and a top speed of 30mph, it is at least more powerful than the doomed C5.

It is hoped this sort of electric motoring will be more suited to modern roads thanks to cycle lanes in cities, and the Iris will also be weatherproof unlike its older brother.

The website states the Iris’ chest height high level profile will attract attention from other road users and ‘next generation quantum foam EPP body material protects the rider’ – whatever that means.

It claims the three-wheel trike format makes cycling safe in all weather and it will also be equipped with LED headlamps, indicator repeaters and brake lights.

But the question that needs asking is why Grant Sinclair chose to follow-up his uncle’s idea which was voted as the biggest innovation disaster in 2013.

For the same money, you could make a selection from a wide range of actual classic cars, and not have to have an new trike dressed up as an old one.