Brough Superior

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Brough Superior Logo
Brough Superior SS 100 1925
Lawrence of Arabia on a Brough Superior he called George V. Lawrence owned eight Broughs in all, listed below, with notes in brackets:
1922: Boa (the name was short for Boanerges)
1923: George I (the cost of £150 was more than the price of a house at the time)
1924: George II
1925: George III
1926: George IV
1927: George V (RK 4907; see photo)
1929: George VI (UL 656)
1932: George VII (GW 2275) (the bike which he died riding)
Undelivered: George VIII (still being built when Lawrence was killed).6
T. E. Lawrence's eighth Brough Superior, the one he was riding when he was killed, at the Imperial War Museum.[1]

Brough Superior (/ˈbrʌf/ BRUF) motorcycles, sidecars, and motor cars were made by George Brough in his Brough Superior works on Haydn Road in Nottingham, England, from 1919 to 1940. They were dubbed the "Rolls-Royce of Motorcycles" by H. D. Teague of The Motor Cycle newspaper. Approximately 3,048 examples of 19 models were made in 21 years of production; around 1/3 of that production total still exist. T. E. Lawrence ("Lawrence of Arabia") owned seven of these motorcycles and died from injuries sustained while crashing one. George Bernard Shaw was another among many celebrities who were enthusiastic about Brough products.

George Brough was a racer, designer, and showman. All Brough Superior motorcycles were high performance and superior quality. Most were custom-built to the customer's needs, and rarely were any two of the same configuration. Each motorcycle was assembled twice. The first assembly was for fitting of all components, then the motorcycle was disassembled and all parts were painted or plated as needed, then the finished parts were assembled a second time. Every motorcycle was test ridden to ensure that it performed to specification, and was personally certified by George Brough. The SS100 model was ridden at 100 mph (160 km/h) or more prior to delivery. The SS80 model was ridden at 80 mph (130 km/h) or more before delivery. If any motorcycle did not meet specification, it returned to the shop for rework until it performed properly. The fit and finish was comparable to a Rolls-Royce car, and they were the most expensive road-going motorcycles in the world.

Brough Superior motorcycles have always been rare and expensive. Prices for these motorcycles ranged from £130 to £180 in the 1920s and 1930s. Since the average weekly salary during the 1920s and 1930s was £3 per week, only the wealthy were able to afford them.

Brough Superior motorcycles[edit]

Early models include the Brough Superior Mark I Sidevalve, Mark I Overhead, Mark II Standard and Mark II Sports. Early to mid manufacture included the Overhead 500, 680 S.V. 5.15, and 750 Side Valve, but these were not popular and were dropped from production.

The following four models represent the bulk of manufacture. Most were custom built to order and many variations were made:

Brough Superior produced many other experimental, show, and racing models. These include:

George Brough was known for his dedication to his vehicles and customers. He, and later Albert Wallis, continued to service Brough Superiors after production ceased, making parts until 1969. Production of bikes never resumed after WWII.

Production figures[edit]

YearNumber of Motorcycles Produced 4
19190
19201
19213
1922103
1923119
1924195
1925168
192695
1927226
1928155
1929139
1930131
1931117
193258
1933121
1934104
193594
1936187
1937173
1938159
1939118
194010

To this list may be added thirteen motorcycles without a date on their build card. Many records are incomplete for the first few years of production and for some of the low production models. The estimated total production was 3,048 vehicles.

Racing[edit]

Riders of Brough Superiors have won many races—sprints (drag racing), hillclimbs, and top speed. Victories include:

In 2013 Brough Superior said it would return to Grand Prix motorcycle racing with a prototype machine for Moto2, the Carbon2, a motorcycle made by California builders Taylormade and rebranded as a Brough Superior.[2]

Brough Superior sidecars[edit]

Brough Superior also manufactured sidecars. The sidecars had coach-built bodies, and some carried a spare tire, while others offered two seats for occasional use. The fit and finish of these sidecars were of the highest standard, as were the motorcycles. These sidecars all offered good protection from the elements. Many of the earlier sidecars were built to Brough Superior specification, while later sidecar frames were manufactured in the Brough Superior factory. Later sidecars were unique in the fact that the frame of the sidecar held fuel. The sidecar frame looped over the top of the sidecar body and had a filler cap at the topmost position. Fuel was pressurized by hand pump which allowed transfer of fuel from the sidecar to the petrol tank of the motorcycle. Two different bodies could be ordered for the petrol tube sidecar; cruiser or sports. The various sidecars were offered in the yearly Brough Superior sales catalogs8:

Brough Superior cars[edit]

A Brough Superior motor car

George Brough made approximately 85 cars named Brough Superior.5 Built between 1935 and 1939, they were powered by Hudson engines and had a Hudson chassis. Three models were made, but only two reached production. Early cars did not carry Brough Superior badges as Brough thought the cars sufficiently distinctive in themselves.

The first car was the 4 litre made from 1935 to 1936 using a 114 bhp (85 kW), 4,168 cc side valve, straight-eight engine. Performance was remarkable for the time with a top speed of 90 mph (140 km/h) and a 0-60 mph (97 km/h) time of 10 seconds. The drop head coachwork was by Atcherley of Birmingham.

Hudson stopped supplying the eight-cylinder engine in 1936, and subsequent cars had a 107 bhp (80 kW), 3,455 cc straight-six, still with side valves and called the 3.5 litre. A Centric supercharged version was also listed with a claimed output of 140 bhp (100 kW). The chassis was 4 inches (100 mm) shorter than the 4 litre at 116 inches. Saloon bodies were available but most were open cars. Approximately 80 were made between 1936 and 1939.

The final car, the XII made in 1938, used a Lincoln-Zephyr V12 engine of 4,387 cc and Brough's own design of chassis with Girling brakes and Ford axles. Only one was made with a saloon body built by Charlesworth. A large car with an overall length of 219 inches (5,600 mm) and width of 71 inches (1,800 mm), it still survives.

Journalist Bill Boddy7 tested an early model Brough Superior Saloon in 1936 for Motor Sport magazine. Noting the car had a reserve fuel tank, he declined to fill up before the journey. Upon running out of petrol, he could not find the switch to activate the reserve. After begging petrol from a passing lorry Boddy then encountered a motorcyclist who had crashed, and offered to assist. When asked, he told Boddy that his bike was a Brough Superior and asked what was 'the nice car in which you are giving me a lift'. When told it was a Brough Superior the motorcyclist was silent for the rest of the journey. Boddy presumed this was incredulity that a famed motorcycle maker could also manufacture cars, and supposed that the motorcyclist presumed he was concussed.

Etymology[edit]

The Brough surname, adopted from one of several towns in Britain so called, is originally a form of the word borough (See more at Borough). "Superior" was a claim by George Brough of his bike's superiority over all other motorcycles, including the original Brough Motorcycles manufactured by his father, William E. Brough.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Wasef, Basem; Leno, Jay (2007), Legendary Motorcycles: The Stories and Bikes Made Famous by Elvis, Peter Fonda, Kenny Roberts and Other Motorcycling Greats, MotorBooks International, pp. 95–99, ISBN 0-7603-3070-0, retrieved 2011-07-27 
  2. ^ Beeler, Jensen (September 6, 2013), "Brough Superior Debuts Familiar Moto2 Race Bike", Asphalt & Rubber 

External links[edit]