1938 Claude Butler SWB Tandem

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On Thursday 26th September 1935 Maurice G Selbach left Leander Road, Thornton Heath on one of his own cycles for the relatively short journey to his business premises in Kennington Road.  He was not due to go to work on this day but, being the conscientiousn sort, wanted to make sure all was okay.  At around 10.30, just under 4 mile into his journey, he made a manoeuvre past a truck and whilst returning to the near side of the road encountered some particularly badly laid tram rails that caused him to fall from the cycle under the wheel of the truck.  He died en route to hospital.  His funeral was attended by over 150 well-known cyclists and representatives of cycle manufacturing firms together with family and friends.  The service was held at Streatham Park Cemetery.  At the inquest the coroner recored accidental death by the cycling press felt the poor state of the installation and repair fo the tram lines had played a big part in the accident.  Mrs Selbach had a special headstone made which showed a photograph of Maurice edged in gold.  Below the picture was a sculpted bicycle leaning against a milestone.   Above this were the words “He died as he lived.  A cyclist”.  In order to preserve it, the headstone was moved in 2004 to the National Cycle Museum in Powys where it is now on display.

The short wheelbase (SWB) tandem was actually invented by Maurice Selbach, whose 1935 Selbach tandems included the SWB model. Selbach died in September 1935 without having patented it. Soon after, Claude Butler introduced the same SWB tandem. The article below is from 24 June 1936, and says that it ‘will be in production in about three weeks time but, as the castings have not yet been completed, the price has not been decided at the present.’

Whether the Selbach or Claude Butler version, the SWB provided an iconic design for tandems in their thirties heyday.


 1938 Claude Butler SWB Tandem


26″ Wheels

(Now sold)

Whereas the overwhelming majority of enthusiasts of pre-1920 bicycles prefer unrestored original machines rather than repainted examples, most aficionados of lightweight bicycles are still restoring them. It’s the difference between wanting to see a bike in the pristine condition it was in when purchased from a cycle shop v enjoying them ‘ageing gracefully’ and showing the ravages of time. Most chaps seeing these pictures would probably think it’s time this machine was restored. But it’s hard to find a pre-war SWB CB still wearing its first paint, and it would be a shame to paint over its original transfers (decals).

Previous owners fitted handlebars of a style they preferred for riding (optional when new) rather than the dropped style illustrated in the catalogue. Otherwise it appears to be as it came out of the factory. This ‘oily rag’ tandem has recently been serviced, and is ready to ride.