If any motorcycle ever was more than the sum of its parts, it was the Brough Superior. It’s the cliché I use every time I describe a Brough but a very important one to note. During the 1920s there were a number of other manufacturers, including Zenith, Montgomery, McEvoy and Coventry Eagle, which used a similar formula for their machines: JAP v-twin overhead-valve engine, Sturmey Archer gearbox, Amal Carburettor(s), Pilgrim oil pump(s), Lucas electrics, etc. But only George Brough’s was described as “The Rolls Royce of Motorcycles” and his was one of the few premium brands to make it through the Depression years, only to cease production of motorcycles in 1940 to focus on the more profitable engineering business.
The first Brough Superior, the Mk I, entered production in 1920 and was the earliest machine of the period to feature a saddle tank (as oppose to a flat tank), something not universally adopted by other manufacturers until nearly ten years later, becoming a signature Brough design feature. Soon afterwards a “Super Sport” model, the SS80, was introduced and, in 1922, achieved instant celebrity by becoming the first sidevalve-engined machine to lap Brooklands at over 100mph, ridden by master marketing man himself, George Brough.
To ensure the Mk I was not overshadowed by its younger sibling it was decided to completely redesign it and in 1924 the SS100 was introduced. On sale to the public from 1925, the SS100 featured the Harley-Davidson-inspired Castle forks designed and patented by George Brough and Harold “Oily” Karslake, and a 1,000 cc JAP overhead-valve v-twin engine. Only the best components available were used, GB’s logic being that, if the product was right, the machine would sell. Fortunately, in the Roaring Twenties there was no shortage of sufficiently wealthy clients to prove him right. Famously, each machine came with a written guarantee that it had been timed at over 100mph for a quarter of a mile, incredible considering few vehicles of any kind were capable of such a feat at the time.
“ATV 294” is one of only seven JAP-powered SS100s produced in 1933 (the same year the “two of everything” version became available) and the only one that year to have the tachometer drive from the primary chain case. The machine was found by the current owner nearly 50 years ago in a dilapidated state, having been lightly modified for competition (consisting of removing any parts that were not vital and fitting a huge carburettor) but was otherwise complete. It then sat in his mother-in-law’s garage for the next few decades until it was decided to put it back to its former glory, to be used for high-speed long-distance touring just as Haydn Road had intended.
Having only been away from the workshop of the Brough restorer Dave Clark a short period of time, it will be returning before the sale for tidying and to have a factory-correct chromed tank fitted. This will accompany the original, which has been painted black to cover its blemishes resulting from nigh-on 80 years of use. Complete with registration document, invoices from the restoration, Brough Club dating certificate and copy of works record card, the machine is estimated at £120,000-150,000, and will be sold on 24th April at the Stafford County Showground.
Nick runs the Collector’s Motorcycles department for Bonhams in London where he has an unprecedented level of access to and expertise in historical motorcycles. This is the first of a series of regular contributions in which he’ll be sharing his favorite finds with you, the Hell For Leather reader.