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Classic Vintage Motorcycles: Brough Superior

Vintage 1915 Henderson Long-Tank

George Brough and the Brough Superior

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The Brough Superior, pronounced "bruhf," was manufactured over a twenty-one year period from 1919 to 1940, and was considered at the time to be the "Rolls-Royce of Motorcycles." Manufactured at the "Brough Superior Works" in Nottingham, UK, 19 models were produced totaling roughly 3048 units.

The Brough was a totally hand-crafted motorcycle the was very expensive for the time (150 for earlier models), and most of the bikes were custom made for a particular customer's needs, making each Brough a unique piece of art.

1931 SS100 Brough Superior
Zoom: 1931 SS100 Brough Superior

The most popular model of the Brough Superior was the SS80 powered by a Matchless 998cc "vee twin" engine or a 976cc J.A.P. vee twin engine manufactured by J.A. Prestwich Industries Ltd. in Middlesex. The SS100 version was the flagship model of the Brough Superior line, with only 384 built between 1924 and 1940.

George Brough

George Brough (1890—1969) was the second son of motorcycle pioneer William Edward Brough, who began building motorcycles at his factory in Nottingham in the late 1890s. William Brough's first iteration of the "Brough Motorcycle" was introduced in 1908, and built until 1926.

Brough SS80 Matchless 998cc Engine
Zoom: Brough SS80 Matchless 998cc Engine

Like his father before him, George Brough was a stickler for quality control, and every Brough was assembled to check the fitting of each component, then disassembled for plating and paint work before final assembly. Each motorcycle was then test ridden prior to delivery to the customer, and if a particular bike did not pass the driving test it was reworked until it did.

Brough Superior Gas Tank, Gauge, and Windscreen
Zoom: 1930 Brough Superior SS100 Semi-Racing Special

George Brough was a larger-than-life character, who was also a car builder (the 'Brough Superior' Car with Hudson chassis, was made from 1935 to 1938), a motorcycle speed record holder (130.6 mph in 1928), and all-around showman.

The SS80 & SS100 JAP 'Vee Twin' Engine

Many of the Brough Superior SS80 and SS100 models were fitted with the powerful JAP engine, manufactured by J.A. Prestwich Industries Ltd, motor engine manufacturers on Tariff Road in Tottenham, Middlesex UK.

1931 Brough Superior JAP 1000cc Engine
Brough Superior's JAP (J. A. Prestwich) 976cc Vee-Twin Engine

The J.A.P. was Britain's answer to the large-displacement Indian v-twins that America was producing at the time. John Alfred Prestwich was able to procure Bert Le Vack, a British national who was working for Indian, to help J.A. Prestwich Industries design a "Yank-buster" vee-twin engine. The JAP engine was also used in the 1920s HRD Vincent models, and the Morgan 3-Wheeler motorcar.

Brough Superior JAP Engine detail
Zoom: Brough JAP Engine detail

Before delivery, each SS100 was test-ridden to 100 miles per hour, and if the bike failed to meet the promised specifications, it was re-tuned and re-worked until it did.

The Brough Superior and T. E. Lawrence

Perhaps two of the most famous owners of Brough Superior motorcycles were the Irish author, and socialist George Bernard Shaw, and Lieutenant-Colonel T. E. Lawrence, of "Lawrence of Arabia" fame.

Of the seven Brough motorcycles that T. E. Lawrence owned, all were named "BOA George" I through VII, with BOA meaning Boanerges, or "sons of thunder."

Lawrence of Arabia
Lawrence of Arabia on his Brough Superior

T. E. Lawrence was ultimately killed on his seventh Brough Superior SS100 ("BOA George VII") on May 13th, 1935. Lawrence referred to his Broughs as a "skittish motorbike," with "a touch of blood in it that is better than all the riding animals on earth."

The reputed SS100 that Lawrence was killed on is now on loan to the National Motor Museum at Beaulieu in Hampshire, England.


Brough Superior Front End

Brough Superior Saddle Bags

There is an estimated 1000 Brough Superiors in existence today, a relatively high number considering the limited production. Considered one of the more collectable vintage motorcycles, prices can range from $50,000 to more than $100,000.

Brough Superior Links

Brough Superior "Official" Site

The Brough Superior Club

Bert Le Vack and J.A.P.

1936 Brough Superior SS80

National Motor Museum in Beaulieu

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