BRITAIN CAN MAKE IT
During World War 2, the government started making plans for postwar manufacturing and the export of British goods to bring in much-needed foreign exchange. A Council of Industrial Design was established in 1944 and, just a month after war ended, the BRITAIN CAN MAKE IT exhibition was announced, to be held at Victoria and Albert Museum in September, 1946. Though Britain itself was short of consumer goods, the event was successful in helping change outdated views on manufacturing and stressing the importance of industrial design.
One innovative design presented at the exhibition was from Benjamin Bowden (1906-1998). He had worked as a car designer at the Rootes Group since 1925 and during the war designed an armoured car used by Winston Churchill and King George VI. But this design was for a streamlined bicycle constructed of pressed aluminium that he called ‘The Classic’.
BRITAIN CAN’T MAKE IT: Unfortunately nobody wanted to build it in the UK. Bowden tried in South Africa a few years later, but was unsuccessful there too. Eventually, in 1959, after moving to America, he met Joe Kaskie of the George Morrell Corporation, a company specialising in custom molding. As a result the bike was built using fibreglass instead of aluminium, and renamed The Spacelander for its launch in 1960.
It was made in five colours: Charcoal Black, Cliffs of Dover White, Meadow Green, Outer Space Blue, and Stop Sign Red. It was expensive for its day and the fibreglass frame was not practical for daily use; as a result only 522 Spacelander bicycles were made.
However, it soon became an over-subscribed collectors’ item, and in the 1980s two enthusiasts purchased the rights from Bowden and manufactured a small number of reproductions and replacement parts. The first reproduction was sold in 1988 for $4,000.
This example is one of two replicas built by a British company, Wolf of Nottingham. In 2013, an original was advertised on ebay for $42,000 and another sold for $12,000. One of the two British replicas also sold on ebay that year, for £3300. The original sale price in 1960 was $89.50.
This Space Vello, in ‘Outer Space Blue’, is in excellent original condition and ready to ride.
1980s Bowden Spacelander Replica
‘Space Vello’ by Wolf of Nottingham
‘Outer Space Blue’
Inventor Ben Bowden and his wife in later years…