Historic Motorcycle Brands

Brough Superior


Classic-era Brough Superior motorcycles, sidecars and motor cars were made by George Brough in his Brough Superior works in Nottingham, England, from 1919 to 1940. The motorcycles were dubbed the ‘Rolls-Royce of motorcycles’ by H D Teague of The Motor Cycle newspaper. 


Brough Works – Brough Superior Club


Approximately 3048 motorcycles in 19 model ranges were made in the 21 years of production and were sufficiently priced that around a third of them still exist. The most famous Brough Superior owner was T E Lawrence, ’Lawrence of Arabia’, who owned eight of these motorcycles and died from injuries sustained when he crashed number seven, while waiting for number eight to be delivered.


George Brough chats with T E Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) at the Brough Works – Brough Superior Club


George Brough was a racer designer and clever marketer. His father, William E Brough, had been making Brough Motorcycles in Nottingham since 1908 and continued to do so until 1926. 


Brough Superior Club


Convinced he could improve on his father’s designs, Georeg ensured that all Brough Superior motorcycles exhibited high performance and superior quality. Most were custom-built to the customer’s needs and rarely were any two of the same configuration.

Each motorcycle was assembled twice: firstly to assembly all the components; then, after disassembly all the parts were painted or plated, as needed, before the finished parts were finally assembled. 



Every motorcycle was test ridden to ensure that it performed to specification, and was personally certified by George Brough. The SS100 model was ridden at 100mph or more before delivery and the SS80 model was ridden at 80mph or more before delivery. 

If any motorcycle had faults or failed to meet specification, it was returned to the works for rework until it performed properly. 

The fit and finish was comparable to a Rolls-Royce car and they were the most expensive road-going motorcycles in the world.

Brough Superior motorcycles have always been rare and expensive, with prices that ranged from Stg£100 to Stg£185 in the 1920s and 1930s. Since the average annual salary in Britain during the 1930s was Stg£200, only the wealthy could afford Brough Superiors.


Brough Superior Museum Neckarsulm


Early models include the Brough Superior Mark I Sidevalve, Mark I Overhead, Mark II Standard and Mark II Sports. Early to mid-manufacture included the Overhead 500, 680 S V Junior and 750 Side Valve, but these were not popular and were dropped from production.

The following four models represent the bulk of manufacture. Most were custom built to order and many variations were made:

The SS100 Super Sports was powered by a JAP (J A Prestwich of Tottenham) or Matchless 1000cc, overhead-valve V-twin engine. Approximately 383 were manufactured from 1924 to 1940.


Brough Superior Club


The SS80 (Super Sports) was powered by a JAP or Matchless 1000cc side-valve V-twin engine. Approximately 1086 were manufactured from 1922 to 1940.

The 680 OHV was powered by JAP 680cc overhead-valve V-twin and approximately 547 were manufactured from 1926 to 1936.


1933 Brough Superior 11.50 – National Motorcycle Museum Iowa


The 11.50 was powered by a JAP 1096cc, side-valve, 60-degree,V-twin engine. This model was primarily designed for sidecar and police use and approximately 308 were manufactured from 1933 to 1940. 

The 11.50 was similar to SS models, but the suspension specifications varied. Some machines used rigid frames and some were suspended, using a couple of fork designs that were available.

(The ’11.50’ model number referred to the horsepower rating of the engine: 11hp RAC {Royal Automobile Club} rated horsepower and 50 rated ‘brake’ horsepower. In reality these engines produced under 30bhp. Tax horsepower calculated ratings were required for registration tax purposes and an engine’s RAC horsepower figure was the piston diameter squared, multiplied by the number of cylinders and then divided by 2.5.)


1925 Brough Superior SS80 with 1928 Swallow Model 4 Sidecar – British Motor Museum Vauxford


Brough Superior also manufactured sidecars. The sidecars had coach-built bodies and some carried a spare tyre, while others offered two seats for occasional use. The fit and finish of these sidecars were of the highest standard, matching the motorcycles. 

Many of the earlier sidecars were built to Brough Superior specification, while later sidecar frames were manufactured in the Brough Superior factory. 


Brough Superior Ags Sidecar – Model Factory Hiro


Later sidecars were unique in that the frame of the sidecar held fuel. The sidecar frame looped over the top of the sidecar body and had a filler cap at the topmost position. Fuel was pressurised by a hand pump that transferred fuel from the sidecar to the motorcycle petrol tank. 

Cruiser or sports bodies could be ordered for the petrol-tube sidecar.

In addition to its relatively higher-volume motorcycle models, Brough Superior produced several small-run, special models. 


1927 Brough Superior 1000cc ‘Works Scrapper’


The 1927 Brough Superior 1000cc ‘Works Scrapper’ was built by Freddie Dixon at the Brough Superior Works for an attempt on the ‘World’s Fastest’ title.

The bike was a heavily modified SS100 1000cc machine and was used extensively by Dixon in 1927. He took the record for the first bike with a sidecar to lap Brooklands at over 100mph and reached 130mph on a one-way run at Arpajon, France. Mechanical problems prevented a return run, and the record.

In 1928, George Brough competed with the bike with speed victories at Pendine Sands and Doncaster among his successes.

Named after the famous hard-sand speed record venue, the ‘Pendine’ was introduced in 1927, with a guaranteed top speed of 110mph. It was based on the SS100 model, but with engine performance modifications. Racer, Barry Baragwanath, installed a supercharger on one that later became known as ‘Barry’s Big Blown Brough’. 


Barry’s Big Blown Brough – Brough Superior Club


Noel Pope’s Pendine set two lap records with it at Brooklands in 1939: 107mph with sidecar and 124mph in solo configuration, which exceeded the previous record, set in 1935 by Eric Fernihough, also on a Brough Superior. These records still stand, because the track closed in 1939.


Brough Superior Austin Four – Thruxton


The Brough Superior Austin Four or BS4 was purpose-designed for sidecar operation and was fitted with a modified Austin 7 car engine and transmission.

A prop-shaft from the automotive transmission was coupled to a cast final drive that was connected to close-coupled dual rear wheels. Because the twin wheels were within 24 inches of each other, the Brough Superior BS4 was legally a ‘motorcycle’ in the UK. 


Only 10 were made and one was ordered without a sidecar by journalist Hubert Chantry, who had borrowed a factory show model for use in the Land’s End Trial of 1932.







Brough Superior’s first Golden Dream was finished in gold paint for the London Motorcycle Show at Earls Court in 1938.


Brough Superior Golden Dream – Thruxton


Designed as a team effort by Brough, ‘Ike’ Hatch and Freddie Dixon, its ‘flat-four’ engine had two horizontally-opposed, OHV, flat-twins, mounted one on top of the other. Their respective flywheels were directly geared together, so they counter-rotated.

This ‘H’ engine had connecting rods from opposed cylinders of ‘fork and blade’ type that allowed them to share a common crankpin. All four pistons moved in unison, so the ‘stroke’ sequence of each cylinder was timed, not piston travel. (Michael Frey’s excellent schematic shows how it al worked.)

Primary, secondary and higher-order sources of vibration cancelled each other, as did the gyroscopic effects from each crankshaft. The two crankcase-located camshafts were originally gear-driven.


The four cylinders had ‘square’ dimensions of 68mm × 68mm, equating to 988cc. Development work on the engine gave it ‘over-square’ dimensions of 71mm × 63mm, retaining its 998cc displacement, but with chain-driven camshafts.


Fork and blade connecting rods – Model-Engineer




Brough Superior Golden Dream – Thruxton


(Incidentally, the BRM-powered Lotus 43 F1 car had an H16 engine that proved as disastrous as the company’s previous V16 engine.)

The Brough Superior Dream had optional three- or four-speed transmission, manufactured to Brough’s own design by David Brown Ltd and the enclosed shaft turned an underslung worm and pinion gear on the rear axle.

The welded frame was designed to accommodate the unusual engine and had plunger-type springing for the rear wheel, unlike the cantilever swing-arm suspension on the SS100. The forks were Brough Superior’s ‘Castle’ forks,  derived from a Harley-Davidson design and the petrol tank, saddle and wheels were the same as standard Brough Superior machines.

Five Golden Dreams were produced during 1939 and another model was planned for exhibition at Olympia, but World War II was declared in September 1939.

The Brough works were turned over to the War effort, completing crankshafts for Rolls Royce Merlin engines.

After the War, there was no reliable supply of standard-model motorcycle engines and strained times meant a very limited market for Brough’s top-shelf Dream motorcycle, with its very expensive in-house engine, so the original Brough Superior company never returned to motorcycle production.

George Brough was known for his dedication to his vehicles and customers. He and Albert Wallis continued to service Brough Superiors after production ceased, making parts until 1969.


George Brough riding a Brough Superior in the Blue Hills during the Lands End Trial in 1928 – Brough Superior Club



In 2008, vintage motorcycle enthusiast Mark Upham acquired the rights to the Brough Superior name. In 2013 he met motorcycle designer Thierry Henriette and asked him to design a new Brough Superior motorcycle. Three months later a prototype of a new SS100 was shown in Milan. 


Modern SS100 and Pendine


The new Brough Superior SS100 featured an 88-degree, 990cc, water-cooled V-twin engine, with DOHC four-valve cylinder heads. Output was 120hp in standard tune.

The chassis used the engine as a stressed member, with a Fior-based front fork with Ohlins shock absorber and Ohlins mono-shock rear suspension. The chassis was made of titanium, carbon fibre and aluminium. The front brakes were from Beringer, sourced from the aircraft industry. 

The minimal bodywork was constructed of hand-formed aluminium, including the fuel tank, seat cowl, fenders and side covers. The dry weight of the SS100 was just under 180kg, making it among the lightest ‘litre bikes’ ever produced for street use. New Brough Superior models have continued since.




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