Lawrence of Arabia on a Brough Superior he called George V. Lawrence owned eight Broughs: 1922: Boa (short for Boanerges) 1923: George I (£150 was more than the price of a house) 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 he died riding) Undelivered: George VIII (still being built when Lawrence was killed).
T. E. Lawrence's eighth Brough Superior, the one he was riding when he was killed, at the Imperial War Museum.
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 to fit all components. Then the motorcycle was disassembled and all parts painted or plated as needed. Finally, 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
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:
The SS80 (Super Sports), powered by J.A.P. or Matchless 1,000 cc sidevalve V-twin engines. Approximately 1,086 were manufactured from 1922 to 1940.
The SS680 O.H.V. (Super Sports), powered by J.A.P. 680 cc overhead valve V-twin. Approximately 547 were manufactured from 1926 to 1936.
The 11.50, powered by J.A.P 1096 cc sidevalve 60° V-twin engines. These were primarily designed for sidecar and police use. Approximately 308 were manufactured from 1933 to 1940. The model name refers to the horsepower rating of the engine, 11 RAC (Royal Automobile Club), 50 bhp (37 kW). In reality these engines produced 32 bhp (24 kW). Tax horsepower ratings were required by manufactures for tax purposes. RAC HP equals the piston diameter squared times the number of cylinders divided by 2.5.
Brough Superior produced many other experimental, show, and racing models. These include:
Golden Dream. This was powered by a vertically stacked twin crankshaft opposed four cylinder engine. George Brough called this a "flat vertical" engine. The bike was finished differently and was unique for the marque as it was painted gold and was shaft driven.
Straight Four Combination. This bike was powered by a modified Austin 7 automobile engine. The transmission also came from an Austin 7. The Straight Four Combination was an inline four-cylinder motorcycle with shaft drive. It had two rear wheels that were mounted on each side of a cast drive unit. This motorcycle was made for sidecar use, and 10 were built.
Pendine. These were built in the early 1930s and had a guaranteed top speed of 110 mph (180 km/h). They were based on the SS100 model but with higher performance modifications to the engine. A well known racer, Barry Baragwanath, installed a supercharger on one, and it is now known as "Barry's Big Blown Brough". Noel Pope bought the motorcycle and in 1939 set two lap record with it at Brooklands; 106 mph (171 km/h) with sidecar, and 124 mph (200 km/h) in solo configuration, which exceeded the previous record set in 1935 by Eric Fernihough also on a Brough Superior.
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.
1919 - 0
1920 - 1
1921 - 3
1922 - 103
1923 - 119
1924 - 195
1925 - 168
1926 - 95
1927 - 226
1928 - 155
1929 - 139
1930 - 131
1931 - 117
1932 - 58
1933 - 121
1934 - 104
1935 - 94
1936 - 187
1937 - 173
1938 - 159
1939 - 118
1940 - 10
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.
Riders of Brough Superiors have won many races—sprints (drag racing), hillclimbs, and top speed. Victories include:
1922, George Brough, First Sidevalve Motorcycle to lap Brooklands at 100 mph (160 km/h).
1927, 11 June: R. E. Thomas, 2½ Miles Sprint for Unlimited Capacity Solo Machines, Cefn Sidan Speed Trials. 1st place.
1927, 11 June: R. E. Thomas, 10 Miles for Unlimited Solo machines, Cefn Sidan Speed Trials. 1st place.
1927, 11 September: R. E. Thomas, 2½ Miles Sprint for Unlimited Capacity Solo Machines, Cefn Sidan Speed Trials. 1st place.
1927, 11 September: R. E. Thomas, 10 Miles Unlimited Race for Solo Machines, Cefn Sidan Speed Trials. 1st place.
1927, 11 September: R. E. Thomas, 25 Miles Race for Unlimited Solo Machines, Cefn Sidan Speed Trials. 1st place.
1927, 11 September: R. E. Thomas, 50 Miles Race for Unlimited Solo Machines, Cefn Sidan Speed Trials. 1st place.
1928: George Brough, one mile (1.6 km) sprint, Pendine. 1st place.
1928: R. E. Thomas, one mile (1.6 km) sprint, Pendine. 2nd place.
1931: J.H. Carr, 50 Miles Any Power Solo, Pendine. 1st place.
1931: J.H. Carr, 100 Miles Any Power Solo, Pendine. 1st place.
1935: Eric Fernihough, Brooklands motor-cycle lap record for all classes, 123.58 mph (198.88 km/h).
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.
Brough Superior sidecars
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 a hand pump that transferred fuel from the sidecar to the petrol tank on 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 catalogs:
1921: "Sporting Sidecar" manufactured by Montgomery Sidecars to Brough Superior Specifications.
1922: "Sidecar" registered to the design of the manufacturer.
1923: "Brough Superior Sidecar" registered to the design of the manufacturer.
1924: "Brough Superior Sidecar", "Brough Superior Swallow Coupe", "Brough Superior Sporting", "Brough Superior Sporting Tourist".
1925: "Brough Superior Sporting Sidecar", "Brough Superior Touring Sidecar".
1926: "Brough Superior Super Sports Sidecar", and made mention of other sidecars available.
1927: "Brough Superior Touring Sports" was mentioned in the 1928 catalog mentions the popularity of it in 1927. No mention of sidecars were in the 1927 catalog.
1928: "Brough Superior Touring Sports", "Brough Superior Cruiser" are listed.
1929: "Brough Superior Spring Frame Cruiser" Sidecar is introduced with reference to many other sidecars available.
1930: "Brough Superior Spring Frame Cruiser" Sidecar, and "Brough Superior Rigid Frame Cruiser" Sidecar. Reference is also made to many other sidecars available.
1931: "Brough Superior Cruiser Sidecar", available in spring frame or rigid frame configuration.
1932: "Brough Superior Cruiser Sidecar", offered with the Brough Superior Straight 4 Combination. And another "Cruiser" sidecar shown with one of the V-twin models. The "Cruiser" is offered in spring frame or rigid frame configuration.
1933: "Brough Superior Cruiser Sidecar" with mention of "Any type or make of Sidecar supplied. Send for lists."
1934: "Brough Superior Cruiser Sidecar", "Brough Superior Occasional 2-seater Sidecar."
1935: "Brough Superior Cruiser Sidecar", "Brough Superior Touring Sidecar."
1936: "Brough Superior Touring Sidecar", "Brough Superior Cruiser Sidecar."
1937: "B.S Alpine Grand Sports Sidecar", available with Cruiser or Sports body, this is also known as the Brough Superior Petrol tube sidecar. The sidecar frame holds fuel and is pressurized with an air pump allowing transfer of the fuel from the sidecar to the main petrol tank of the motorcycle without stopping.
1938: "B.S. Alpine Grand Sports Sidecar". Cruiser or sports body available.
1939: "B.S." Alpine Grand Sports Sidecar. Cruiser or sports body available.
Brough Superior cars
A Brough Superior motor car
George Brough made approximately 85 cars named Brough Superior. 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 Boddy 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 help. 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.