Get up close to a Brough Superior motorcycle, and it’ll take your breath away.
The gleaming chrome tank, the incredible sleek lines, the famous engine, the heavy fishtail pipes…it’s a truly stunning package.
So just imagine for a second what it’s like to see more than one at a time.
Five in a row, to be specific…
Brough Superior motorcycles are overwhelming in the flesh.
All that history, all that beauty wrapped up in one machine.
But just try seeing a whole bunch of them at once!
It’s Brough motorcycles overload.
And there are 8 good reasons Broughs are so special.
Brough motorcycles are not exactly commonplace.
You’re unlikely to see one roaring around the streets, or parked up at your local café.
Many people go their whole lives without seeing one in person.
So imagine my joy when visiting my favorite motorcycle museum here in New Zealand.
Classic Motorcycle Mecca has Brough Superior motorcycles galore.
I counted eight of them all up.
Five parked in a row.
One casually hanging out with a group of Vincents across the room.
A particularly noteworthy model spotlit on its own platform.
And one with its own shiny black side car, greeting you as you walk in the door.
Yep, eight Brough Superiors.
It’s not an experience you’ll have everyday.
At this motorcycle museum, they don’t bother roping off the bikes, or putting them on platforms behind DO NOT TOUCH signs.
This is New Zealand.
We’re pretty laid back here.
You can wander amongst the Brough Superior motorcycles, touch them, stroke them, and take as many photos as your phone will store.
I guess they have a guy that works at night to wipe away the drool and the tears as grown men (and women) weep in amazement at this incredible display.
So why are Brough motorcycles so awesome, exactly?
I’m glad you asked…
8 Reasons Brough Superior Motorcycles are So Special
There’s a lot going on with the Brough marque.
Let’s dive in.
1. Not many were made
Brough motorcycles were only made between 1919 and 1940.
In those 21 years of production, around 3048 bikes (19 models) were made.
That’s not exactly flooding the market.
It’s estimated around a third of those bikes are still around (Source).
2. They were fast
Each Brough motorcycle claimed to have a minimum top speed of 100 mph.
This was a big deal in the 1920s and 30s, and helped set its reputation as a fast, sexy motorcycle.
3. The production process took forever
Creating a Brough Superior motorcycle was not about getting as many as possible per day off the production line.
Far from it.
Each motorcycle was assembled twice.
The first assembly involved putting the bike together.
Then the motorcycle was taken apart, and all the bits and pieces were painted or plated.
Now finished to the required standard, the bike was assembled a second time (Source).
It wasn’t exactly cost efficient!
4. Every motorcycle was test ridden before it was sold
No bike left the factory without that crucial first test ride.
And George Brough made a point of personally signing off each bike he sold.
The SS100 model was ridden at 100 mph (160 km/h) or more before delivery.
The SS80 model was ridden at 80 mph (130 km/h) or more before delivery (Source).
If the bike wasn’t up to scratch, back to the factory it went for more tweaks.
5. This was the most expensive motorcycle in the world
Yes indeed, all that testing and re-assembly took time and care.
That, and the uncompromising focus on quality meant that these motorcycles were not cheap.
Not surprisingly, they were the most expensive motorcycles in the world at the time.
They ranged from £100 to £185 – and to give you some context, the average annual salary in Britain during the 1930s was £200 (Source).
And they’ve continued to be highly valuable.
In 2014 in the UK, a 1929 Brough Superior 986cc SS100 ‘Alpine Grand Sports’ model was sold at auction, bringing in a world record price of £315,100 (Source).
6. The marketing was ahead of its time
We’re used to slick marketing motorcycle videos and clever ad campaigns these days.
But back in the day George Brough came up with an unusually catchy marketing angle for his motorcycles – surely way ahead of its time in the 1920s.
He called the Brough “the Rolls-Royce of Motorcycles” and the newspapers of the time ran with it.
Such an appealing description helped capture the imagination of the public and make it even more desirable.
7. The T. E. Lawrence connection
The enigmatic Lawrence of Arabia loved Brough Superior motorcycles.
He owned 8 of them, and upgraded his model every year when the new one was released.
He famously died on his 7th Brough motorcycle near his home in Dorset in the English countryside, after swerving to avoid two boys on bicycles.
8. Brough has been reborn
Brough Superior motorcycles are not just a very cool but discontinued vintage bike marque.
Brough motorcycles have a new lease of life.
In 2008, motorcycle enthusiast Mark Upham acquired the rights to the Brough Superior name and the Brough was reborn for a new era.
French motorcycle designer Thierry Henriette has developed a new Brough Superior motorcycle, available from 2016, with modern technology and a price tag that continues the tradition of exclusivity.
Around 100 of these new Brough Superior motorcycles are produced each year, and with a cost of approximately USD80,000, you’re still unlikely to see many roaring past you on the road.
It’d be nice to have one in the garage for sure (we can dream) but in the meantime, there’s a 2017 model in our motorcycle museum.
So at least we can visit while we wait for a the skies to open and dollars to rain down on us.
Brough Superior motorcycles are rare, valuable, and steeped in historical tradition.
Standing amongst a whole bunch of them is a truly humbling experience.