The Legendary Brough Superior Motorcycles

Some motorcycle brands have acquired a legendary status and have influenced, more than others, what we ride today. Vincent, Harley-Davidson, Indian, Triumph, etc…and Brough Superior. During the 20 years of handmade production between WWI and WWII, about 3000 Brough motorcycles (each had to be commissioned and none of the same model was exactly the same) were produced in the small Nottingham, England facility.

George Brough Jr. had such an obsession with reaching perfection for fabrication/details  and shockingly impressive performance than even the top Rolls Royce executives were in awe at Brough’s workmanship and impressive engineering. For a period of time  Brough Superior was the fastest machine on 2 wheels on the planet. Brough ownership became a privilege of the affluent, and sill today is commanding the highest resale value. Among the celebrities of the time, playwright George Bernard Shaw and T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia). who owned and rode 7 different Brough SS 100’s models (named George I to VII). Below I reproduce a 1933 letter that T.E. Lawrence wrote to George Brough Junior. A letter expressing the warm relationship and ultimate respect between a client and a builder. The type of letter (or today email) that all custom builders and limited production manufacturers wish to receive from their customers. (picture 1926 Brough Superior SS 100)

Dear Mr. Brough, Yesterday I completed 100000 miles since 1922, on 5 successive Brough Superiors, and I’m going abroad very soon, so that I think I must make an end, and thank you for the road pleasure I have got out of them. In 1922, I found George I (your old Mark I) the best thing I’d ridden, but George V (the 1922 SS100) is incomparably better. In 1925 and 1926 (George IV & V) I have not had an involuntary stop, & so have not been able to test your spares service, on which I drew so heavily in 1922 and 1923. Your present machines are as fast and reliable as express trains and the greatest fun in the world to drive. And I say this after 20 years of experience with cycles and cars. They are very expensive to buy, but light in upkeep (50-65 m.p.g. of petrol, 4000 m.p.g. oil, 5000-6000 miles per outer cover, in my case). In the 4 years I have made only one insurance claim (for less than £5) which is a testimony to the safety of your controls & designs. The S.S.100 holds the road extraordinarily. It’s my great game on a really pot-holed road to open up to 70 m.p.h. or so and feel the machine gallop. And though only a touring machine it will do 90 m.p.h at full throttle. “I’m not a speed merchant, but ride fairly far in the day (occasionally 700 miles, often 500) and at a fair average, for the machine’s speed in the open lets one crawl through the towns, & still average 40 to 42 miles in the hour. The riding position & the slow powerful turn-over of the engine at speeds of 50 odd give one a very restful feeling. There, it is no good telling you all you knew before I did. They are the jolliest things on wheels.”

8 Responses to “The Legendary Brough Superior Motorcycles”

  1. 1 JZ May 26th, 2010 at 11:38 am

    Good post, Cyril. Thank you. You may be interested in knowing that Brough Superior has been resurrected and is currently producing made-to-order motorcycles that have received some very positive press. The firm is English based and directed with manufacturing in Austria. Very appropriate considering the British-Austrian history (manufacturing and racing) of this legendary marque.

  2. 2 Cyril Huze May 26th, 2010 at 11:49 am

    JZ. I mentioned your info in a post on August 31, 2009. See it here:

    As a matter of fact, I saw a couple of Brough when I was last month at Jay Leno Garage.

  3. 3 jatinder pal May 27th, 2010 at 2:58 am

    I always loved old brit iron and this was one of my favorites.

    The old BSA and Triumphs are like tough warriors who refused to die.Its sad to see the british motorcycle industry is nearly dead.

  4. 4 maroco May 27th, 2010 at 7:29 am

    Allways impressive, ancient motorcycles represents good part of human history.

  5. 5 Pepper Massey May 27th, 2010 at 8:11 am

    My favourite motorcycle! Love the letter!

  6. 6 nicker May 27th, 2010 at 11:18 pm

    “…(each had to be commissioned and none of the same model was exactly the same)…”

    Get “back to basics:”
    -Customer requirements
    -Design excellence
    -Attention to detail


  7. 7 Knucklehead May 28th, 2010 at 7:27 am

    There is a collector here in town who has one. It is a cool bike.

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Cyril Huze