CJB Boatyard

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Sutcliffe Boats

Clockwork Cabin Cruisers - 1934 to 1939

In 1934 Sutcliffe decided to further extend thier range and introduced 3 bright new cabin Cruisers. Thier previous Cabin Cruiser, a 'hot air' boat sold in the early 1920's, was a rather crude afair, but this range was far more sophistocated. In true Sutcliffe fashion, existing tooling was used as much as possible so the range was based on the same hull pressings as the 12" to 20" speedboats. All three boats got names too; Swallow (12"), Commodore (16") and Empress (20"). All these boats were produced until 1939.


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Fig 10.2 -  Swallow Cabin Cruiser - circa 1938. Courtesy Brownhill Collection.

The Swallow (Fig 10.1) shares the same hull pressing as the Minx, however the deck consists of a new pressing with a fabricated 'step just behind the cabin. The rear well is also the same as the Minx, although now set lower in the hull. The handrail is soldered to the deck and must have been quite a fiddly step in the manufacturing process. The cabin, a simple folded 'box' with a central fabricated tube for the bung, is attached to the hull with 4 x 1/8" brass bolts and the whole assembly is sealed with a rubber 'gasket'. Over time this sets very hard and can make gaining access to the clockwork motor very difficult. The 'port holes' are simple black bootlace eyelets that are pressed into the sides after the yellow paint has been applied, and the 'roof' is a very simple folded plate which slides off forward to reveal the screws that attach the cabin. There would be no real reason to remove the cabin as the boat is wound through the central hole, though alas  many roofs were removed and lost over time.

Swallow - 12"

Figure 10.2 shows a Swallow Cabin cruiser dating from the late 1930's indicated by the decal style of black lines gold etalics. For compason, a Minx from the same period is shown below in Figure 10.3. Both boats have the simple embossed Made in England foredeck pressing, rather than the earlier oval 'Sutcliffe' embossed pressing. The Swallow is by far the rarer of the two boats by quite some margin and was always produced in blue, unlike the Minx which was produced in both red and green.

Fig. 10.3 -  Minx 12" Speedboat, circa 1938.

Commodore - 16"

The Commodore is very similar to the Swallow in that it has all the same features, except it is longer, having the same hull as the 16" speedboat. The cabin, whilst the same construction, is different from the Swallow as can be seen by the additional port holes; the Swallow has 4 on each side whilst the Commodore has 5.


Fig. 10.4 -  Commodore Cabin Cruiser - circa 1935

The Commodore also uses the larger rudder found on on the 16" speedboats.  It only ever appears to have been produced in green/cream and whilst it is probably the most common of the three Cabin Cruisers, it is still very rare. This example has the oval 'Sutcliffe' foredeck pressing indicating that it dates from the mid 30's rather than the late 30's.

Empress - 20"

The Empress was the grandest of them all and must have been one of the most expensive boats in the range; this is reflected in its rarity today. For some reason it did not feature the hand rail of the two smaller boats, bit it did feature a bench seat (!) in the larger fabricted rear well. It also sports a pair of vents in the foredeck. These were used on a variety of boats from the period.

emp2 - decal emp1 - decal

The Empress appears to have only been produced in red but the cabin roof appears to have been produced in a dark shade of green as well as a light shade of green. An example has also been seen with much smaller front vents, like the ones found on the foredeck of the Bluebird I and Racer 1 of the period. At first glance the cabin appears to be the same as the Commodore but there is a subtle difference; the winding hole is in a different place so the two are not interchangable!


All of the cabin cruisers were phased out towards the end of the 30's; none of the larger hulled boats (12" to 20") would re-appear after the war.

Fig 10.5.  Above and below - Empress Cabin Cruiser - circa 1935.  Note much larger rear well and seat.


Fig 10.1. Swallow Cabin Cruiser - circa 1935. Not CJB Collection. Note oval 'Sutcliffe' Logo on foredeck.