Amazing vintage Ben Bowden Spacelander bike can be yours for just £27,000

Creation of influential British designer; only 522 were ever made

by John Stevenson   August 14, 2013  

Bowden Spacelander (Bike Blue Classic USA)

Fancy owning an extraordinary piece of cycling history? This amazing-looking machine is a 1960 Ben Bowden Spacelander and if you can’t live without it, it’ll set you back a cool $42,000 (£27,000) from eBay seller Bike Blue Classic USA.

Benjamin Bowden was the car designer and engineer responsible for the Healey 2.4, the first post-WWII 100mph production car, but like Mini suspension designer Alex Moulton after him, he was fascinated by the idea of improving the bike.

In 1946 he showed his Bicycle of the Future  at the Britain Can Make It exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum, to public acclaim and amazement.

His patent said he had just intended to "provide improvement of aesthetic and practical character" of the bike, but many features of the bike that became the Spacelander were radical departures for the time.

The frame was made from two steel clamshell halves welded together into a monocoque and the front fork and mudguard was all one piece. The prototype had a shaft drive, a suspension fork, and batteries inside the frame powered lights, a horn, and a built-in radio.

It was far too radical for the deeply conservative British bike industry of the day. Bowden moved to the US to seek backing for the bike and over a decade later, in 1960, the production Spacelander was built in Michigan with a fibreglass frame and more conventional chain drive.

By then its swoopy lines, harking back to the streamlining and tail fins of 1940s and ‘50s American cars looked distinctly dated, and only 522 were made before the company went bust.

Ben Bowden continued to work as a designer until he retired from coordinating designs for military tanks at General Dynamics in 1986 aged 79. He never really recovered from the failure of the Spacelander, even though he could take heart from the widespread use of pressed steel construction in scooters and mopeds that the Spacelander inspired. He died in 1998.

According to the ad, this Spacelander is: “A marvel of mid-century post war aerospace design, this bicycle is a must-have for any collector.”

We’ll have a modern replica in carbon fibre please. Baby blue, of course.

5 user comments

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is it U.C.I legal? Confused

posted by wes13985 [1 posts]
14th August 2013 - 20:20

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...well it tips the scales at fifty pounds, so the weight limit's no problem...

posted by The Rumpo Kid [590 posts]
14th August 2013 - 20:37

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That seat looks like a comfy trampoline.

posted by TeamCC [146 posts]
14th August 2013 - 20:51

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Interesting there is a German wikipedia page for Benjamin Bowden but I can't find an English one. I prefer it in red.

Tovarishch's picture

posted by Tovarishch [49 posts]
15th August 2013 - 10:36

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Looks brilliant! Leads me to wonder what you could do these days in carbon fibre. You could make something which is light, streamlined, and integrates mudguards into the frame and forks in one piece.

two wheels good; four wheels bad

posted by cat1commuter [1339 posts]
15th August 2013 - 11:36

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