Wednesday, 27 November 2013

The return of Brough Superior

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The return of Brough Superior

Just over a year ago I featured an article in part about two Brough Superior motorcycles from the 1920s, which made large sums of money when they went to auction.  The model was also briefly mentioned in another motorcycle-themed post earlier in the year.

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1937 Brough Superior SS100
Both were prime examples (despite one being unrestored) from a motorcycle manufacturer of the inter-war Golden Years that was widely regarded as the producer of the ultimate 'bikes of the period.  The company was founded in 1919 by George Brough, the son of motorcycle manufacturer George Brough Sr. who built machines simply labelled Brough.  After a falling-out between father and son, George Jr. went and set up his own concern - cheekily calling it Brough Superior much to his dad's chagrin!

In the 20 years of Brough Superior production the company more than lived up to its name, earning the nickname "the Rolls-Royce of motorcycles" (a name the originally-litigious Rolls-Royce was not happy with, until one of its executives was given a tour of the factory and had to admit that is was more than a fair description, even going so far as to give Rolls-Royce's full approval).  Brough Superiors were truly bespoke machines built with input from the owner, all of them put together by a white-gloved hand - and then disassembled again for painting/finishing!  Each and every example of the original 3,048-model production run (approximately one-third of which survive today) was scrupulously tested before delivery.  The SS80 was named for its 80mph top speed, so each one was run at that speed or more after construction to ensure that it lived up to its moniker.  Likewise the SS100.  If one fell short, it went back to the factory for tinkering until it could satisfactorily meet the published figures.  George Brough Jr., himself a record-breaking motorcycle racer and designer, wanted only the very best.

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T.E. Lawrence on his 6th Brough Superior, "George V", 1927
It was a vision shared by many rich and famous motorcyclists of the time (a SS100 in 1925 - the second year of its production - cost £170, equal to about £55,000 today which is about the same as the new 2014 model is expected to cost) including George Bernard Shaw and most famously T. E.  Lawrence [of Arabia].  Lawrence owned a total of eight Brough Superiors and was infamously killed on the back roads of Dorset in 1935 when he crashed his SS100 "George VII" (a ninth model, "George VIII", was under construction at the time).  "George VII" is now currently on display at the IWM London.

Sadly the Second World War did for Brough Superior as its factory was given over to war production.  Despite dedicated after-sales service from George Brough and later company owner Albert Wallis, which saw parts still being produced right up until 1969, no new Brough Superior motorcycles were produced after the outbreak of war.

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Until now.  I'm delighted to see that the Brough Superior nameplate has been revived and now graces a wonderful and impressive-looking machine - the 2014 Brough Superior SS100.  Designed very much in homage to the original 1924-1939 SS100, this new 2014 model includes many traditional construction features that tie it unmistakably to its ancestor such as the uniquely-shaped fuel tank and a V-twin engine integrated into the chassis.  Yet, to this blogger's eyes at least, there is an obvious evolutionary aspect to the 'bike, which in its shape resembles slightly more the modern roadster design.  Yet it all combines to create a handsome motorcycle and in my opinion a very successful imaging of what a Brough Superior would look like in the 21st century.

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No doubt this is in no small part thanks to the interest of the reborn company's new owner, marque enthusiast and former motorcycle dealer Mr Mark Upham.  It certainly sounds like he understands the ethos behind the brand and I wish him the best of luck with his product plan.  The Brough Superior name deserves to make a comeback and this could well be the motorbike to do it justice.

4 comments:

  1. Isn't she beautiful?! I'll always prefer the older styles, but I think the new one will do nicely thank you, a bit of of my price range though :) Maybe you could host a competition to win one? ;)

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    1. Good to see you about again, Jennie. :)

      Indeed, isn't she? At least it's a bit(!) less than a restored old one... I'll have to write and ask if they can spare one for a giveaway, yes. ;) Although how about a brochure instead?

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  2. Lawrence is my husband's favourite film. And the offspring would kill for the bike! Or indeed most classic/vintage ones.

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  3. My grandad was Stan Webley who owned and rode his SS100 right into his 70's and gave his name to the trophy given for the best rebuild of the year. The whole family loved that motorbike and have many lovely memories of being taken on the back.

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