Ridden by Frank, this Butler is certainly one of the few used in competitions
Top right: The original BML badge
As a supplier of fuel tanks and ancillaries in fibreglass, including those on the famous ‘GOV 132’ Ariel of Sammy Miller, and the inspiration behind the Greeves leading link forks, Butler Moulding Limited also produced around 200 motorcycles before abandoning the off-road scene for sail boats. To mark the occasion of one of these machines going
on display in the Joel Corroy museum in France at his Trail 70 HQ we spoke to Frank Dulubac, the proud owner of a Tempest model, to learn more about
these rare and undervalued machines.
An industrial designer, and curious by nature, Chris Butler became interested in 1954 by a material developed before the Second World War but still not often used in products. It was reinforced glass fibre or, more correctly, glass fibre reinforced plastic (GRP). Chris had been a passionate motorcyclist since the age of fourteen and so he decided to use this new material and conceived certain elements for his own machines used in both trials and scrambling.
The aim was on the one hand to lose a substantial weight from the heavy machines of the time and on the other to give his models a different aesthetic look from those of other riders. The modifications that Chris Butler made to his machines were often the cause of many discussions in the paddocks!
With a handful of orders from friends and other riders Chris did not wait long before launching into a small series of products in GRP such as fuel tanks, side panels, front and rear mudguards, as well as number boards. It was the start of his new business venture Butler Mouldings Limited — BML.
Lighten your Machine
Serious production got underway in 1963 when he was contracted to supply Greeves who were a substantial producer of motorcycles at the time. He had made his name with his products being seen on the greatest development machine of the time, the 500cc Ariel of Sammy Miller who, in his relentless quest for improvements, had used Butler-supplied fuel tanks and mudguards in order to reduce weight by a few more grams.
It was from this start that the champion introduced the small producer into the history of trials. Chris however decided to take his products one stage further, convinced that his GRP products when fitted to a frame of his own design could lighten even more by a not inconsiderable 30lbs (13kg). His aim was to have a machine lighter than the notional
barrier of 200lbs (around 90kg). His idea was to develop and market a rolling chassis kit which would allow a rider to construct his own machine by adding an engine and wheels etc. He set to work and had the idea of a revolutionary leading link fork (not fitted to our test machine) equipped with Girling suspension units. It was this concept that Greeves purely and simply copied two years later for their own models. The Butler was launched in 1963.
The box section tubing used in the frame construction caught the eye of many a prospective buyer but there was no chance that Chris Butler would sell his products before they had been well and truly tested and proven to be reliable.
Into the Fire
He rode in the toughest events possible such as the Scott and Scottish Six Days Trial, amongst others. The results were promising and the little Butler was astonishing.
In November 1964 Butler had its own stand at the Earls Court Motorcycle show. John Lee was contracted as a factory rider and Olga Kevelos rode the SSDT twice at the controls of a Butler. However, after 1965 the previously unassailable British motorcycle industry was in trouble and the production of trials machines turned to Spain. The problem of finding a market for his GRP products was solved when Chris had the idea of producing pleasure and, later, racing boats.
After producing close to 200 motorcycles in kit or fully assembled form the workshops of BML turned towards a brighter future. Today at least three Butler models survive in France; one is in a totally original state and can be found in the Trail 70 museum in Vesoul, one is in the course of preparation at BPS run by expatriate Stuart Brown in Cahors and the test machine, which is still used in many trials by owner Frank Dulubac!