As preparations proceeded for the launch of the new Alex Moulton bicycle, the British cycle market was in a state of flux. The bad news was that exports had dropped by three-quarters in three years. The good news was that imports were down slightly, and overall sales had risen by 15% in a year.
Raleigh, boosted by the BMX craze, had half of all UK sales. The rest of the British cycle industry had just 15%.
Within this small segment Alex Moulton hoped to carve a tiny niche accounting for no more than 0.3% of annual UK sales – perhaps 5,000 units at most.
A few weeks before Christmas 1982 I received a telephone call from John Benjamin, company secretary of Alex Moulton Ltd. Bristol-based BBC West was sending a television crew to the Moulton works at Bradford-on-Avon. I was invited to be on hand to demonstrate a 1960s Moulton.
Alex showed them his green Y-frame machine. Then, having bound them to secrecy, he removed the sheet from the new AM bicycle. His best-kept secret was revealed.
The machine was an AM2 and, after the film crew left, I was invited to have a brief test ride. The immediate impression was of a very light yet outstandingly rigid bike, with an exceptionally silky ride. The longer travel front suspension was much more effective than the original Moulton’s at eliminating high frequency vibration, as caused by the coarse granite chippings used to surface many rural English roads.
…The launch duly took place on Thursday 19 May 1983 at the Kensington Palace Hotel, London. Those present were allowed to ride the bikes along the relatively quiet De Vere Gardens and adjoining roads. Alex addressed the assembled press and his words were reported in the July issue of Cyclist Monthly:
“My intention was to make a better bicycle for a wider range of usage. …Design is a continuing challenge in my life. …Two years ago we decided to go ahead, although it is a hassle to go into production. Very different from the period 20 years ago when we brought out the original Moulton bicycle.
This time it is being done on a more modest scale to start with. We are not entering the volume market, but concentrating on producing the highest quality machine for thoise who want the best available.”
– extract from The Spaceframe Moultons by Tony Hadland, pages 45-47 (Pub 1994, by Tony Hadland)
The AM Moulton, a top quality machine with a high sale price, came onto the market in the recession of the early 1980s. When this point was put to Alex Moulton, he answered that ‘the financial pressures today have made the public very aware of travel economics.’
The majority of the (much older) bicycles featured on this museum website are, likewise, quality machines. Invariably such bicycles are much more likely to have been treasured during their working life and cherished subsequently, handed down through the family or stored carefully by collectors aware of their historic importance.
This particular machine is the ultimate example. As you can see from the letter below, 443016 was originally a demonstration model used by Alex Moulton Ltd for exhibitions only.
Unusually for a bicycle – and obviously because of its previous provenance – it has a complete history file. You can see the correspondence regarding its history further down the page. It has had three owners.
Peter Barker bought it in April 1988 from a company in London (who I believe were connected with Moulton’s exhibition services).
My friend Derek contacted the Owners Club in June 1988 to enquire about the availability of Moultons. He received a copy of The Moultoneer magazine and this machine had just been added to the ‘for sale’ list so he contacted the seller immediately and purchased it from him. He kept it in dry storage until 2011.
This was one of several bikes I recently bought from Derek.
1984 Alex Moulton AM7 Separable
Moulton’s Own Exhibition Model
Frame no 443016
(Built in the last week of October, 1984)
Wolber Moulton 17 x 1 1/4 (32-369) Tyres
This Moulton has had hardly any use. When it was purchased in 1988 it had been ridden for less than 10 miles. Derek only had a few short rides on it, and I’ve ridden it for just 30 yards. It’s in first class condition, what you might describe as ‘new-old-stock.’
Despite the fact that it rides so well, with such excellent provenance, it’s unlikely to become a commuter machine!
This is a prize-winning display bicycle and such a prize rarely comes onto the market.
Of course, all collectors like to find bargains owned by sellers who have no idea of value. But a machine such as this has never been, and will never be one of those. This is a bicycle that is obviously at the top of its class, to be purchased by the discerning enthusiast who likes to own the best. So instead of negotiating over a vintage machines like this, we grab the treasure before our competitors get there first.
Exclusive vintage vehicles of all sorts are eagerly snapped up by top collectors, and the lucky collector who buys this Moulton will know that, as well as winning prizes, this machine will only appreciate in value and always command a top resale price.
FROM THE HISTORY FILE OF 443016
I have blanked out the names and addresses of all private individuals in the correspondence file before publishing them online. But the originals will be passed to the new owner.
The email above, from Shaun Moulton in 2011, states the age incorrectly as January 1985. (Tony Hadland’s letter provides the correct date).
The letter below is from The Moulton Bicycle Club in 1988, and includes the advert that resulted in Derek’s purchase.
According to the postal receipt above, Derek sent his deposit to buy the Moulton on 11 June 1988.
Here is Tony Hadland’s reply, stating the correct date of manufacture.
FRAME NUMBER 443016
ITEMS THAT ACCOMPANY THE MOULTON AM7:
UNUSED WOLBER- MOULTON 17″ TYRES
PAIR OF ORIGINAL INNER TUBES
ORIGINAL 1985 MOULTON AM SERIES BROCHURE
& 1988 PRICE LIST
PHOTOCOPY OF ASSEMBLY INSTRUCTIONS
Thanks to Tony Hadland for the extract from his excellent Moulton book