100 Years of Brough Superior

The Rolls-Royce of motorcycles celebrates the company’s 100th birthday with a new anniversary version of the Brough Superior SS100.

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by Alan Cathcart

1934 Brough Superior 8/75 SS100

Engine: 996cc air-cooled OHV 50-degree JAP V-twin, 80mm x 99mm bore and stroke, 8.5:1 compression ratio, 74hp @ 6,200rpm
Top speed: 110mph, guaranteed
Carburetion: Two Binks w/single remote float
Transmission: Sturmey-Archer 4-speed, chain final drive
Electrics: 6v, dual magneto ignition
Frame/wheelbase: Single downtube steel cradle/59in (1,499mm)
Suspension: Castle leading-link forks with single central spring front, dual springs with friction damping rear
Brakes: 7in (178mm) SLS drum front, 8in (203mm) SLS drum rear
Tires: 3.5 x 19in front, 4 x 19in rear
Weight (dry): 440lb/200kg (est.)
Seat height: 27in/686mm
Fuel capacity: 4.8gal (18ltr)
Price then: £180 (approx. $907)

George Brough didn’t have to coin the cherished “Rolls-Royce of Motorcycles” slogan himself that he used to promote the prestigious range of motorcycles built under the Brough Superior name at his Nottingham works — a Motor Cycle magazine road tester of one of his early bikes did it for him first, in print.

But it’s a mark of the respect with which his products were held in the pre-World War II era that nobody ever questioned the validity of such an implicit boast. Until, that is, one day a man from Rolls came calling, requiring Brough to cease and desist from infringing his company’s trademark, else there’d be legal retribution. After an abortive attempt to talk his way out of trouble, Brough hit on the plan of showing his visitor around the small factory, where by chance his hand-picked team of skilled artisans were preparing the bikes due to be displayed on the BS stand at the forthcoming Olympia Show in London. To prevent their fingerprints soiling the gleaming finish of these show bikes, the workers had donned white gloves — allowing Brough to infer that this was the normal modus operandi for such a high-class motorcycle operation, well worthy of being likened to R-R. The visitor — a high-up executive in Rolls-Royce — was so impressed, Brough got explicit permission to continue using the slogan —  and so the tag stuck.

Others — not only rival HRD-Vincent owners, but also those unable to afford what was always an extremely expensive machine — decried Brough Superiors as “bitzas.” This was due to the fact that, apart from the boxer-engined 4-cylinder Dream whose development was cut short by the outbreak of war, Brough Superiors were only ever propelled by proprietary, bought-in engines and gearboxes, rather than those developed in-house. But, like Bimota half a century later, this allowed Brough to focus completely on building its own frames, and delivering a level of performance and quality of manufacture, allied with benchmark looks and matchless rideability, that Brough’s few rivals could never aspire even to equal. For once, a much-vaunted product surely lived up to its billing, combining superlative workmanship with breathtaking performance for the era, and functional beauty with practical engineering. These were bikes that demanded to be admired, but also to be ridden hard. They were the first true Superbikes in motorcycle history.MC

Order the November/December 2019 issue of Motorcycle Classics to read more about the history of Brough Superior. Contact Customer Service at (800) 880-7567 or contact us by email.

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