Acle High School students engineering Sinclair C5 electric vehicle comeback

While Sir Clive Sinclair made his fortune with the first slimline pocket calculators the public quickly decided his sums did not add up when he turned his attention to inventing a new form of transport.

The long-awaited unveiling of his Sinclair C5 - a battery-assisted tricycle steered by a handlebar beneath the driver's knees - was swiftly greeted by public ridicule and his invention was condemned as far too lightweight for busy roads.

However, in a back-to-the-future exercise, 27 years after production of the vehicle was hastily stopped only months after its launch, students at Acle High School have set out to revive its fortunes.

In an engineering project led by electronics teacher Dan Ferguson, youngsters are getting ready to restore their very own C5 and planning all kinds of add-ons such as 'go-faster' stripes and the school's logo.

Mr Ferguson said: 'The idea came out of a discussion I had with the school's gifted and talented co-ordinator Paul Jones about design classics. The thought we had was that the C5's fortunes might have been very different if it had been marketed more as a recreational go-kart.'


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The plastic shell of a C5 was tracked down on eBay and bought for �180 - the price including a number of parts - by extended school co-ordinator Janis Austin, who has a special reason to remember the vehicle which was originally sold for �399.

'My husband believes he is the only person ever to have been run over by one when he was down in London,' she said.

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The school still has to source a number of other parts, including a headlamp and motor, before the students can set to work putting it together and fixing the circuitry and wiring.

Mr Ferguson said: 'If we can't find an original motor we might be able to take something out of an old moped.'

He said while it had died a death in the 1980s, he thinks the public would be more receptive nowadays with petrol three times the price.

'It would be ideal to get to and from school. Some students have to walk a mile just to get to a bus stop and two even have to get a boat on their journey to school,' he said.

Enthusing about taking the controls of the C5, which does not require a driving licence, Keeley Sirmons, 11, of Strumpshaw, said: 'It would be just like driving a real car.'

Her friend Jordan Ling, 11, suggested it would be great to paint it pink.

Youngsters will get the chance to try out the 15mph vehicle before it goes on display in the South Walsham Road school.

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