GH-made bicycle worth $42K?
Jul 21, 2015 at 1:07 PM
There is one on display at the Tri-Cities Historical Museum's Depot location at the west end of Washington Avenue.
The museum's Jane Ladley pointed out this passage in Dr. Dave Seibold's "Grand Haven in the Path of Destiny" book: “The space-age designed bicycle was first built in 1946 by an Englishman, Ben G. Bowden. Bowden worked at Bennett Pumps in Muskegon after immigrating to this country, and in the late 1950s formed an arrangement with Bomard Industries of Kansas City to finance, and the Morrell Corp. of Muskegon to produce, the futuristic fiberglass bicycle.
"From August 1960 until March 1961 – less than a year – Bowden Industries produced the Spacelander in Grand Haven, at U.S. 31 and Hayes Road, and in Muskegon at 1355 W. Sherman. Only 522 of the pricey bicycles were manufactured before Bomard went into bankruptcy. Originally, the futuristic product sold for $89.50, or about $450 in 1997 dollars.”
I asked the eBay seller when and where they acquired the bike, and whether they really thought it's worth $42,000.
"Our shop took this bike on trade decades ago and has since been part of our vintage bike museum," responded someone from the Budget Bicycle Center of Madison, Wis., in an e-mail. "As for worth, it's probably closer to $12,000, but the owner of our shop is not looking to sell it — consequently, there's very little interest."
Indeed, as of Tuesday night, there were about a half-dozen other Spacelanders listed for sale on eBay from $295 to $795.
To see the eBay listing, CLICK HERE.
Kevin Collier wrote about the Spacelander in his Strange Grand Haven column last year (Tribune, May 28, 2012):
"When British-born Benjamin Bowden originally designed a "futuristic' prototype of the Spacelander bicycle for the "Britain Can Make It' exhibition in 1946, he could have never imagined the popularity it would garner today.
"The original prototype for the exhibit was hand-made by the MG Auto Co. Due to the expense of manufacturing it, the bike did not go into production until 1960, when Bomard Industries Inc. of Grand Haven contracted with Bowden to create the finished product.
"The futuristic bicycle was available in Stop Sign Red, Outer Space Blue, Meadow Green, Charcoal Black and Cliffs of Dover White. The bike had a fiberglass body, weighed in at 50 pounds, and its retail price was $82.50.
"Only 522 Spacelander bicycles were ever produced, and they were made only for one year.
"Many bike collectors would prefer you don’t know this, but an original Bowden Spacelander in mint condition is worth as much as $15,000 to $20,000. One sold at auction in Chicago on Dec. 7, 2003, within that price range. Even battered Spacelanders are worth $3,000."
Collier wrote that the company was forced out of business by a lawsuit and bad publicity when a woman claimed that she had been injured by one of their vibrating chairs. Bowden died in 1998 at the age of 91.
After this was published in the paper on Thursday, I received this e-mail:
"I am Adam Winters, vice president of the Muskegon Heritage Association. We operate the Muskegon Heritage Museum, highlighting Muskegon's industrial heritage. We have in our collection two Bowden Spacelander bicycles, one was donated by an engineer of the project, who resides in Louisiana. That one is blue, in original, mint condition. Before donation, it was appraised for over $10,000! The other was donated by the son of another engineer of the project. The son was given a bike to use, so they could improve the design. He destroyed six of them. We have his seventh bike, the last he received.
"I hope this info was helpful to you and your readers. I would also invite you and your readers to visit the Muskegon Heritage Museum, 561 W. Western."
Do you have a question for the Tribune? E-mail it to email@example.com, and type MAILBAG in the subject line. Or mail it the old-fashioned way to: Grand Haven Tribune, MAILBAG, 101 N. Third St., Grand Haven, MI 49417. We'll do our best to get you an answer! A new Mailbag appears on grandhaventribune.com at 5 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays.