Steward Street, Birmingham, England 1947. The dawn of a great British manufacturing boom. An industrial factory in the Midlands produces the first alloy drinking flasks and bottle cages.
Sold for four shillings & six pence, the original bottles were beautifully simple in design and function - a ‘fluted’ alloy body, cork stopper, ridged cap, elegant logo and ‘Coloral Birmingham’ manufacturing stamp on the base.
As demand grew, alloy bottles became the must-have accessory for recreational and professional cyclists alike. They often took pride of place on the bike, front-mounted on handlebars, and held a simple blend of milk and sugar, the energy drink of the time. The Coloral style bottle soon became synonymous with the Fausto Coppi and Gino Bartali era of grand tour bike racing, as well as with legendary British cyclist Ken Joy and gruelling time trials back in England.
As the company entered the mid 50s, like many manufacturing companies in the UK of that time, Coloral began to come under increasing pressure from cheaper imports and the increased competition from plastic based alternatives.
These difficult conditions led to the closure of the company in 1954, however, despite their relatively short lifespan, their place in cycling history was secure.
As cycling enthusiasts, we were intrigued by the history of the Coloral Company of Birmingham.
And in the summer of 2012 we embarked on a research project to try and uncover more details about this cycling icon from the past.
This process took us from posting on cycling forums to investigating trademark documents, from corresponding with sport organisations and heritage societies to a visit to the company registration archive in the British Library, but after an investigation that spread over many months we were unable to unearth any new detailed information on the Coloral Company.
Our final hope was to go back to the street that was famously stamped on the base of the bottles - Steward Street, Birmingham.
Today, on that very same street, stands one metalwork factory.
Owned by father and son David and Chris Beeching, the family run business was founded in the 1930s by David’s Grandfather. They head a small team of spinners and press workers making specialist, bespoke pieces for aviation.
One of only a handful of steel spinning factories left in the UK.
Shortly after making contact with David and Chris we visited the factory and they explained the process of how the Coloral bottle could have been made back in the 1940s.
And it’s during that trip that a plan was formed, with David and Chris, to try and bring back the Coloral Company - to recreate the original bottle to exact specifications, use the same craft process that was used back in the 1940s and do it from the very street where the original was manufactured all those years ago – Steward Street, Birmingham, England.
In consultation with David and Chris, and utilising their expertise, we have re-drawn and re-crafted the bottle in CAD, designing an exact match to the original produced in 1947.
The development and accessibility of 3D printing has enabled us to take these bottle designs through an extensive prototyping process.
The next stage is to begin the manufacture.
We plan to invest in bespoke tooling that will recreate the vertical flutes in the steel (by hand), staying true to the original aesthetic and providing ridges for grip. The bottle body and neck will then be formed, pressed, skimmed and joined using a combination of a hydraulic press, machine lathe and traditional spinning lathe. Significantly, we'll make a minor adjustment to the original dimensions to ensure our Coloral bottle fits in standard, modern bottle cages.
Instead of aluminium, we'll use the highest quality 304-type stainless steel; to keep water clean, safe and pure.
304 grade stainless steel is the safest, most durable and toxin-free material available. It is a food grade product, easy to clean, non-leaching, odour and taste free, recyclable and robust for continued use.
Our bottle tops are made from FSC certified cork stoppers and are 100% natural, renewable and recyclable. Sourced directly from Portugal, they look identical to the originals except they will benefit from an invisible barrier membrane to preserve, protect and avoid taint. They will also undergo a rigorous fit test to ensure a snug fit and no leaks. They come complete with ridged alloy cap and laser printed logo.
Finally, the bottles will be imprinted on the base with the original “Coloral, Steward Street, Birmingham” manufacturers stamp.
To fund this adventure and the next part of the Coloral story we will need your help. Using Kickstarter we hope to raise the finances to fund the initial tooling and the production of the first 2000 bottles.
If we can achieve that kick-start we are confident we can generate the momentum required to bring back the Coloral Company as a UK specialist-manufacturing brand for the long term. If we reach our initial goal we are confident that the wheels can start turning in early September, with delivery in October 2013.
We really appreciate all contributions to the project and it would be a great feeling to see Coloral back on the bike in 2013, the centenary year of the Tour De France.
If you have any questions on the project or would like further information please feel free to contact us directly:
We are Tom, Bec, Darryl, Warren, Pip, Olly and Steve a bunch of friends with day jobs in design, film, digital media and cycling. We have a shared ambition to bring back the Coloral Company and create something with a long term, sustainable future.
+ Original, authentic design
+ Hand crafted in England
+ Highest quality 304 food-grade stainless steel
+ Safe, durable & toxin-free
+ FSC certified cork stopper
+ Reusable, sustainable and recyclable
+ No plastic, no contribution to landfill
+ Standard bottle cage compatible
+ 74mm diameter, 120mm tall approx (without cork)
+ 550ml volume capacity approx
+ 8oz empty unit weight approx
Risks and challenges
The manufacture of the bottle will all happen under one roof at Steel Spinnings in Birmingham, this will help us to avoid supplier problems or production delays caused by outsourcing. The hand tooled fluting effect on the bottles is an intricate process that will require some trial and error, but David and Chris have the necessary experience and expertise to refine this. Our timelines have also factored in a rigorous product testing and certification process, which will result in the quality and safety assurances needed for a food-grade product.
Limited edition in Harris Tweed. Handmade by our friends at iL Soigneur in Bristol, England. Fully lined with black buttons and adjuster strap. Embroidered Coloral logo & Harris Tweed patch.
La Centième special edition. Anodised Gold. Individually numbered 1/100 and engraved with "La Centième". Supplied with a limited edition Richard Mitchelson artwork print, specially commissioned for Coloral & Kickstarter.