This bicycle, designed by Benjamin Bowden, was included in the “Britain Can Make It Better” exhibition of 1946. Known simply as the Classic (and later the Spacelander), Bowden’s initial design for the bicycle included a motor that gave riders a little extra oomph while travelling uphill.
Photo by J. A. Hampton/Topical Press Agency/Getty Images
Bowden’s streamlined design was said to represent what the bicycle of 20 years hence was supposed to look like. And appropriately, it wouldn’t go into production in the United States until 1960. The only problem was that nobody wanted one. They were both out of style and terribly expensive ($US90, or about $US730 [$963] adjusted for inflation). Only about 500 were ever produced.
But the Spacelander is a big collector’s item these days. There aren’t many authentic Spacelanders existing outside of museums, but there are plenty of reproductions — many of which are passed off as the real thing by dodgy folks targeting collectors.
“Just by sitting down in my office and thinking about it, I said to myself I should select a product that had not been made before,” Bowden told interviewers in 1993, reflecting on his work at the age of 87.
“I think I’ll look and see if I can’t come up with a different bicycle,” Bowden continued. “An ordinary pedal bicycle has two wheels that are joined by steel tubes. So being a designer in the automobile industry, I decided that I should think of something different, but not too different in its function. You’d still have to pedal around.”
In the photo above, Bowden is demonstrating just how surprisingly light his bicycle of the future would be. But, of course, Bowden’s Spacelander bicycle is more appropriately part of the future that never fully came to be.
Bowden showing off his bicycle on September 17, 1946 (Photo by J. A. Hampton/Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)