To Washingtonians, Clive Sinclair was known to almost everyone as the man behind the funky Sinclair C5 electric car, which arrived in 1973 with a matching radio, which Sinclair manufactured at his Delaware factory.
Sinclair told The Washington Post in 2007, “I would be afraid that when the car came out, people would say, ‘Gee, if only I had been smart enough to drive a Sinclair.’ ”
Yet when the car first went on sale, it sold about 6,000 cars in the first two years and launched Sinclair’s career, which lasted until his death of bladder cancer on Jan. 28 at 81, reported the Halifax Examiner.
Sinclair started with a bus and started small. In 1952, he went to London to meet with a British doctor and other interested car enthusiasts about getting involved in the emerging British car culture. When Sinclair decided to create his own car, the first one was a bus that Sinclair borrowed for the trip. After discussions with two Ford executive, Sinclair decided to use fiberglass for the C5, a decision that required the kind of technical innovation that would define Sinclair’s career.
In 1973, Sinclair came back from Europe with a C5 prototype and a conversation with then-Defense Secretary Robert McNamara. Sinclair convinced McNamara of the importance of electric vehicles, and McNamara offered Sinclair a chance to bring cars to the U.S. market. McNamara gave Sinclair three years to start a factory. Sinclair and the model that sold 7,300 cars in its first two years was officially unveiled at a glitzy event in Hollywood with The Who’s lead singer Roger Daltrey driving Sinclair and the C5 around a racetrack.
Before the automobile had a name, it had a nameplate. Sinclair later said he might have named it the Captain Butts, after Sinclair’s former friend. Instead, the car went with the name Nova. In 1972, Sinclair sold 10,000 Nova C5s in the U.S.
With the car, Sinclair designed a light and easygoing vehicle for customers who enjoyed speed but found slow, unsafe gas cars to be uncomfortable. With its very distinctive styling, the car made Sinclair famous.
Sinclair followed up the Nova C5 with other C5s, C4s, G4s, Corvettes and a 1987 version of the Nova. Sinclair showed his love for speed by purchasing Porsche and Mini Cooper vehicles, including the Porsche 928 and Mini Cooper, for his fleet.
Over his career, Sinclair built cars in the U.S., Canada, Britain, Hong Kong, Japan, Indonesia, New Zealand, Vietnam, Malaysia, India, Iran, Kuwait, Switzerland, the Philippines, Hong Kong, Korea, Pakistan, Singapore, Taiwan, Mexico, Germany, Argentina, Chile, the Philippines, Singapore, Australia, Belgium, France, Germany, Finland, Sweden, Norway, the Netherlands, Austria, Switzerland, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Ireland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Croatia, Serbia, Serbia, Bosnia, Montenegro, Serbia and Herzegovina, Greece, Estonia, Poland, Georgia, Russia, Tajikistan, Ukraine, Romania, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Armenia, Moldova, Moldova, Belorussia, Turkey, Bulgaria, Serbia, Bosnia, Kosovo, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Albania, Albania, Macedonia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Macedonia, Montenegro, Kosovo, Macedonia, Albania, Bosnia, Serbia, Kosovo, Montenegro, and Serbia and Herzegovina.
For decades, Sinclair was driven by his passion for speed. He invited famous drivers to his “speed museum,” a rebuilt factory where some of his early cars were made.