Lotus C5 prototype by John Dunne
It's a common misconception that Lotus only involvement in the C5 develop was the Y frame chassis, however as detailed in the Lotus World Magazine March 1985 & also in both of Barrie Will books who was the Managing Director of Sinclair Vehicle, Lotus developed, designed & build the C5 prototypes. Lotus only build 12-20 prototype C5 fitted with GRP bodies, these were tested to disruption, and were only used until the polypropylene bodies became.
Lotus designs or build nearly every component on the C5 vehicle, body, chassis, gearbox, axles, wheels, electrics, lights, steering, the list goes on!
This C5 Prototype is number 4 out of 4 GRP bodies build by Lotus to be use only for the brochures pictures & publicity, it look identical to the final production model, this was done to enable the photos to be taken for launch brochures, these pictures would have had to be taken at least couple of months prior to the launch on the 15th of January 1985 to enable the brochure to be produced. This C5 has a unique green front sticker in lotus green, I have been informed that the photos were taken under very bright lights with a red background therefore required a green stickers, as green being the opposite end of colour spectrum to red and would therefore appear grey in the picture, Gus Desbarats. has confirmed that he hand cut the front sticker out of paper.
This GRP C5 looks identical to the standard production model from a distance, however on close inspection every single component is different in 1 way or another, below are just some of the unique features, all of which match the C5 in the very first brochure. I do have some original photo negative from the photoshoot that came with the C5, and some history from the Son of the original photographers which I hope you find interesting.
My goal would be have the C5 on display in a Museum (the Lotus Museum if possible), as I feel the C5 program was at least 30 years ahead of it's time, and an important development in the electric vehicle, & also Lotus history in electrical vehicle development.
There are some pictures on the internet of 2 black Lotus JPS Sinclair C5 with Arton Senor driving one, however these 2 C5's were just standard Sinclair built C5's painted in JRP colours, and were not Lotus build vehicles.
Some of the unique features of the Lotus Build Prototype C5
- Body is made from GRP, it has been painted glass white and grey, body has a number 4 sticker.
- No holes at the rear to fit a high vis mast, this exactly matches the C5 in the brochure
- No Lip around the lower boot area on the body, this exactly matches the C5 in the brochure
- Square holes cut in base for mounting on stand for photo shot
- Hand made from C5 decal
- Yellow stripe is one solid colour
- Front wheel is 6 spoke, wheel doesn't have a Sinclair ID tag as the normal wheel have
- Front & Rear tyres are stamped Sinclair in different lettering, and marked as 35PSI not 40psi as standard
- Front light is identical to standard item, but has no manufacture name
- Back light is identical to standard item, but has no manufacture name
- Back wheels doesn't have a Sinclair ID tags on the spokes as the normal wheel have
- Handmade blue metal control box, tabs to fix cover are brazed in place
- Wiring loom is none standard hand made
- Main control PCB has different configuration
- Front control pod is screwed to body from the top
- Front control pod doesn't have a run shield around the LED lights
- PCB in pod has a ceramic ULA chip and different configuration
- Chasses doesn't have the standard holes pre drilled to attached the wiring loom.
- Boot doesn't have the Sinclair name on the inside.
- Boot doesn't have the Sinclair name on the inside, or a small area at the back for the number place stickers as a standard boot would have.
- The rear hoop doesn't have brackets to support the boot lid
- Main on/off switch is a toggle switch under the LHS seat
- Key switch is black plastic with the clips in different locations
- The key switch wiring is brown & white, with a diode installed in the wiring
- The motor mount is different to standard
- The front & rear hub caps don't have the Sinclair name, and are different, all have been painted in gloss white
- Crank cover is lighter, and doesn't have Sinclair logo
- Grey brake cables & standard Blake blocks
- Rubber handle bar grips don't have a raised part where the ignition switch is located
- Boot lining doesn't have Sinclair Logo, looks handmade.
- The cranks have small plastic covers over the nuts, these were never fitted to the production model, but appear in the brochure pictures.
- These are just some the differences with the GRP C5 prototype, this C5 looks standard until you compare it next to the final production model, and exactly matches the C5 in the first brochure which I have attached, I was also given some of the original negatives from the photoshoot.
I purchased this C5 from the Son of the original photographer who has stored the C5 for over 30 years, whos Son Dom has provided some history on the C5.
Below is the history I received from Dom Butler, who is the Son of the original photographer.
"Some background information on my father, Derek Butler. In the 1960's he was working at Vogue, as a photographer's assistant working alongside many famous photographers and for a few years he was Lord Snowdon's assistant. He had ended up working at Avonmore Studios in the 1970's after Vogue had shut down their studio in Hannover Square, London. My dad never name dropped and I guess that is why he ended up in advertising photography. Avonmore Studios was in Avon Trading Estate, West Kensington, London, it was an old Victorian warehouse estate. His studio was on the first floor of one of the old warehouses.
The first time I heard about the C5 was my father telling me that he was working on a top secret project and that it would be revolutionary and be a game changer. This was around August/September 1984 it could have been even earlier. Of course I wanted to know what this secret project was, I kept asking but he wouldn't say. After about a month of pestering him, he finally gave in, he told me it was a electric vehicle made by Sinclair. A few weeks after that I got to go to his studio and saw the C5 for the first time.
So there was 2 C5's delivered for photography, one with wing mirrors and one without. They were delivered on a Sunday at night in cardboard boxes and hoisted up to the first floor studio. They did not leave any keys, I guess to stop anyone using them, after all it was all done in secrecy. So the C5 were photographed and left in a corner of the studio. The Sinclair C5 launch date came and went, but nobody came and collected them. I don't know if they were meant to destroy them after the photography, but knowing my father and the studio manager, they would not have done that. After about a month after the launch date, my father bought the C5 home. Jim the studio manager took the other C5 home, I don't know what happened to that one.
As soon as it was home my sister and I took the opportunity to take the C5 out for a spin. There was no battery, so we had to pedal. Our course was on the pavement from my father's house to the train station car park, about 300 yards away. So we took turns and on my sisters go, she crashed on a corner. She had turned too fast and it had tipped over on the slope. She then noticed that a wheel centre was missing, we all looked for it but we couldn't find it. My father was very angry at this and told us to never use the C5 again! After that it was stored in the back of the garage under a wool blanket.
After several years of pestering my father for the C5, he finally gave in. That was in 2008, at the time I was living in Portugal and had come back to the UK for work. I got it out of the garage, cleaned it off and took some pictures. I tried to get it into the house for safer keeping, but I couldn't get it through the door opening, so I had to put it back in the garage again."