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Sutcliffe Boats

20" Speedboat

The first 20" speedboat was very similar to the 12" and 16" boat, but as it was significantly longer, it enjoyed a much more 'luxurious' cockpit for the lucky owner!  In 1930 when the average wage was about £15 per month, the boat was a whopping 15 shillings. This made the boat the preserve of the much more 'well off' middle class child; this would explain why the boat is now extremely rare, in any condition.  

Fig 8.2  -  20" Speedboat - circa 1931

Fig 8.2 shows the bow of the 20" speedboat and a feature unique to this boat; twin vents on the foredeck but these are the early large type. When the sister boat Empress was introduced in 1935, it too would have twin vents on the foredeck, but these would be the later, smaller, pressed type.

Fig 8.3 - 20" Speedboat - circa 1932.

Fig 8.1 - 16" Speedboat - circa 1931.


The high price is justified in that the 20"  was a very impressive model indeed!  It's big  (obviously!) but would have represented an 'arm full' for a young boy, as it's also quite heavy, being made of heavy gauge tinplate. It was powered by one of the early heavy duty German clockwork motors and the whole thing just oozes quality and workmanship.

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Fig 8.3 shows a close up of the cockpit; unlike the pressing of the 12" and 16" boat, this is fabricated from a single sheet of tinplate which has been cut, folded and soldered. The seat consists of small channel sections which have been soldered onto the side of the cockpit; the seat base and back simply slide into these sections.

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Fig 8.4 - 20" Speedboat box - circa 1931.

Fig 8.5 - 20" Speedboat box lid - circa 1931.

The 20" boat came in a simple brown card box, just as the two smaller boats did. The same label was used on all three and therefore didn't show a name or a length; the example  shown in Fig. 8.4 has '20" ' hand written in pencil on it (just incase it wasn't obvious from the length if the box!)  Inside the lid was pasted the usual set of instructions warning against overwinding and recommending that the boat be oiled from 'time to time'.  The instructions mention that the prop should be kept away from 'straw, thread etc.' - typical contents of the local boating pond of the time no doubt!


Fig 8.6 20" EMPRESS cabin cruiser - circa 1938 (background) and 20" Speedboat - circa 1931 (foreground)

Figure 8.6 shows the 20" speedboat side by side with its later 'sister' Empress. The Empress foredeck is actually a little higher, and the difference between the large and small vents is also apparent.


Later examples of the 20" speedboat used the smaller deck vents, and like the MINX and METEOR, the 20" speedboat went on to get the later windscreen design as well as a variety of different colours; examples have also been seen in both green and blue.