Restoring John Beck's Claud Butler
Posted: Friday 21st August 2020
I was really lucky to get this bike just after its 60th birthday from it’s original owner John Beck. When I first went to look at it John casually slipped, “it’s seen a few murders you know” into the conversation. John had owned the bike from new, buying it as a frame only and building it up himself, adding better quality parts when he could afford them.
When I got it, it still had the pressed steel brakes on it from the Raleigh Lenton Sports that had been John’s previous bike. It also had flat bars added as John’s flexibility diminished with increasing age, but John had the original Titan Maes bars and gave these to me with the bike. It even came with its original Britton pump.
All I’ve done is to replace the brakes, fit the original handlebars, and get the stem re-chromed. Everything else is as it came to me. I’ve chosen to keep it this way, even though the paint job and transfers clearly indicate that it was ‘refreshed’ in the late 70’s or early 80’s. To me it’s a bike that clearly shows its history and I will only redo the frame when it really needs it.
The Sturmey-Archer FM hub has a date of 1958 on it, which fits perfectly with the stories John told me of his two tours of Norway on the bike. For his first foreign tour in 1956, John was given a derailleur to try by the MD of a Willenhall chainwheel manufacturer (Williams?). The less than perfect road surfaces of Northern Norway quickly rendered these ‘new-fangled’ gears inoperative, prompting John to literally ‘throw them in a lake’ (well, fjord actually) and ride on one gear for the rest of that trip. For his return in 1958, John chose to add the FM hub, which caused him no problems.
The bike has ‘seen a few murders’ because John was a provincial newspaper reporter, and used it as his principal means of transport for many years. In his autobiographical 2003 book Perhaps I’m Really Mervyn Davenport, John details many of his lifetime experiences. Unsurprisingly, the beloved bike features in this book and has pride of place in the front cover photograph.
|Frame||24” Frame number 513 (March 1951)|
|Wheels||26” Constrictor Conloy hubs on Blumfield Duralite hub (front) and Sturmey Archer FM rear;|
|Gears||Sturmey Archer FM – 4-Speed;|
|Brakes||Weinmann type 730;|
|Stem/Bars||GB Kromo/Titan Maes;|