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The Property Strategy Conundrum

Ritchie Clapson, co-founder of propertyCEO, comments

Hands up, who’s old enough to remember the Sinclair C5? The brainchild of serial inventor and entrepreneur Sir Clive Sinclair debuted in 1985 and was the talk of the town for a while. For those unfamiliar with the C5, it is best described as a small, one-person battery-powered electric tricycle. And if this conjures up an image of modern-day electric bikes, think again – the C5 rider sat recumbent, leaning back with their legs out in front of them in the same position you might adopt when sledging or rowing. Small and plastic-looking, with a top speed of 15mph and a 20-mile range (or only 6.5 miles if you believe the AA), the C5 sat about 80cm high (or 32 inches if you can remember 1985).

So, how cool did one look when riding in a C5? Well, if you can recall the iconic image of Marlon Brando atop his Triumph Thunderbird in The Wild One film poster, then I can tell you that that picture sits at the exact opposite end of the coolness spectrum to a pic of you sitting in a C5. A quick image search on the internet will reveal the equally iconic picture of Sir Clive, resplendently dapper in a black suit and tie with a matching scarf, looking rather incongruous as he demonstrates his brainchild to a somewhat bemused media audience. Keep scrolling down, and you’ll find another image of a C5 user, this time on a busy high street, talking to a passing cabbie. At this point, you’ll probably have the same thought that passed through most of the population’s minds back in 1985: the chances of a C5 user being seen by a turning lorry are minimal. And while everyone applauded the exploration of electric vehicles as an alternative form of transport, no one particularly fancied the idea of getting crushed to death by a set of industrial-sized Bridgestones. Or, for that matter, being unable to make it up steep hills or turning up for work completely soaked due to the absence of a roof. So, you’ll not be surprised to learn that Sir Clive’s venture failed, his company was dissolved, and the world moved on.

Apart that is, from a dedicated few who became enthusiasts and still regularly meet up around the country to show off their Sinclair-made pride and joys. Some even decided to pimp their rides, in one case adapting a C5 to run at 150mph. If you look at a C5 and think of it travelling at 150mph, you’ll probably picture the same image I did, namely St. Peter’s pearly gates opening wide to permit a hasty admission. The protagonist later explained that the souped-up trike was stable up to 100mph, but things started to get a bit hairy at about 110mph. It was unclear what he thought about the 150mph experience, but the fact that he’s quoted at all would suggest that he may not have risked trying to find out. 

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