The Quail Motorcycle Gathering 2019

This year’s annual Quail Motorcycle Gathering in Carmel Valley, California, highlighted the 100th anniversary of Brough Superior motorcycles.

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by Robert Smith
A group of 10 Brough Superiors held court, celebrating the 100th anniversary of the marque.

In 1919, George Brough started building luxury motorcycles in Nottingham, England, under the name Brough Superior. A test ride on one so impressed a journalist that he wrote that the marque was “the Rolls-Royce of motorcycles.” George, a marketing ace in addition to being a designer, picked up the phrase and used it repeatedly in his advertising.

Rolls-Royce was not happy seeing their good name used by an upstart motorcycle manufacturer. They wrote a stiff letter of complaint to Mr. Brough, who responded by inviting representatives to his factory. When the Rolls-Royce delegation arrived at the immaculately clean Brough factory, they saw a team of white-glove-wearing technicians putting together a Brough Superior. The fit and finish was superb. Impressed, they let George use the phrase. George had failed to explain that the bike was a special, destined for that year’s London motorcycle show.

George would be very happy to see 10 of his hand-built creations on display as one of the four featured classes at the Quail Motorcycle Gathering, celebrating its 11th year in Carmel Valley, California, with over 3,000 participants, over 350 show bikes, the usual delicious lunch on real china plates and free ice cream. One of the Broughs at Quail had been George’s own personal bike. Brough Superiors are rare: Only 3,048 were built between 1919 and 1939, and about 1,000 of these are still in existence. It was a sporting gentleman’s motorcycle: The top of the line SS100 was capable of 110-120mph, and cost 180 pounds sterling. In the 1930s, 110mph was serious racing speed, and the average annual salary in Great Britain was 200 pounds per year.

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