By any standards, George Brough was one of the most outstanding figures the motorcycle world has ever known.
From many points of view he was the greatest. In a lifetime which spanned three important phases of motorcycle development, veteran up to 1914 and (as they were known) vintage to 1930, and then post vintage, he became a legendary figure throughout the world as founder and leader of the exclusive cult of the Brough Superior ...............
The "Rolls -
Brough superiors were always exclusive because so few were made. By manufacturing standards a mere handful of perhaps 3000.
The ultimate tribute to George Broughs genius is that so few machines achieved so much in the world of motorcycle sport and contributed so much to British prestige. Achievements out of relation to their numbers.
In the formative years just after the first world war George Brough was not by any means the only designer/manufacturer/rider, yet from the moment he announced his intensions to market his own machine -
His father, still living in the world of flat tanks though once a trend setter who had made a rotary-
Father and son were a generation apart in years and an age apart in motorcycle outlook. A gulf too big to bridge.
Young George claimed his patrimony, his £1,000 share in the family business, and blued most of it on a plot of land in Haydn Road, Nottingham, and the erection of a single-
This humble building was to become a veritable shrine of a heroic cult. Before it was finished George built his first three or four machines in his father's house, assisted by another youngster, Ike Webb fresh from military service.
Oddly enough George Brough did not think up the trade mark Brough Superior himself. It arose from a discussion over pints in a pub. A crony chipped in with the suggestion, "Why not call it a Brough Superior? "When George was stuck for a name. George's father was not best pleased. "I suppose that makes mine the Brough Inferior,"
The first Brough Superior advertisement appeared in November, 1920. It was written by George himself, as were all subsequent adverts, was right to the point and sprinkled with the motorcycle slang of the day, an idiom which was never updated and in consequence developed a Wodehouseian ring to it.A bike was a "bus", the throttle a "tap". The machine he referred to as an "atmosphere disturber".
He did not deign to quote a price but within hours deposit cheques were pouring in.
In one bold leap George Brough sprang to the top of the motorcycle tree. By his personal prowess in races, trials and sprints he was to hoist his banner to the topmost branch. In this select field there was only room for one at the top and he was determined to stay there. Success attracts competition and soon others were copying his ideas and his methods. Always the opportunist, he made capital out of their attempts by quoting Kipling:
"They copied all they could follow
But they couldn't copy my mind
And I left 'em sweating and a'stealing
A year and a half behind."
He did so with innovations like the first prop stand, twin headlamps, crash bars, interconnected silencers and, of course, his exotic fours.
In all success stories there are points at which seemingly unimportant occurrences have profound effects.
I do not think that when H. D. Teague, then Midland Editor of The Motorcycle, summed up in his road test of the first SS80 Brough Superior by suggesting that it was The Roll-
Every subsequent advertisement and catalogue bore it proudly, though he was always careful to attribute the quotation to the motorcycle. Where George Brough differed from so many rider manufacturers was in the unswerving way he followed His idea of what a motorcycle should be. He did not allow his vision to be confused by the demands of experts, the trade, or the press. He built the machine He wanted to ride, tested it and developed it in competition until he had proved it and publicised it, and then made replicas for those who were of the same taste.
Through the models year by year, from the mark 1, the replica of his own "special" to the Golden Dream which faded finally in the cold light of post-
His second racer had a frame so light that it had to be strutted externally from ahead of the crankcase to the rear spindle, to keep it from bending in the middle when the power was turned on. The engine, a side valve 1000, was very special, the pet of no less than Bert le Vack, the JAP development engineer and record breaker.
It was the track -
With the bottom end guts of a side-
No grass grew under anyone's feet at Haydn Road. Before the copyists could produce a match for the SS80, G.B had another trump card up his sleeve. Le Vack had finally developed the Val Page-
With the aid of Freddie Dixon he built himself a world beater. It was a SS100 shortened a bit and fitted with the latest long-
His failure became another legend, a failure so magnificent as to achieve much of his object. He did 130 mph one way but a piston failed on the return run. One way runs didn't count officially but for all that, he was for quite a while ( until next year when Le Vack took over the bike and the record at 129 mph ) the fastest man on two wheels.
His fabulous fours , the one-
Accordingly he felt, as leader of the exclusive class, that the B.S. should lead the way to that goal. I feel that he developed a split mind over his luxury fours. He felt he ought to make fours yet still hankered subconsciously for the rumbustious vee-
Of all the dreams, the Golden Dream was the most enduring…….and expensive. Conceived before the war with the expert help of H.J. Hatch, the former Blackburne designer, on the design side it had all the features of an ideal design, A real Rolls-
To put the dream on the market would, it was estimated, cost £80,000 -
There was a new generation and a new scene which G.B. no longer understood and which no longer understood him.
It was the end of an era, the autumn of G.B.'s life, though he did not at this point give up altogether.
Following still his four-
The final decision to give up two-
I was a latter day BS enthusiast who had never been able to contemplate a Brough before the war & being brought up to respect my elders and betters, would not have dared to touch the hem of his stormgard had I met him!
But when "Old Bill" came my way and was duly restored after a lifetime of hard labour on the road, I had the temerity to suggest, through a mutual friend that G.B. might like to see it again, might like to have a ride.
After 36 years he jumped on "Old Bill" and blasted off in the manor born. No "what's this for?" no hesitatant trial runs.......... "Wham" -
The letter I received afterwards was in priceless period slang.
"I thoroughly enjoyed my reunion with my dear old pal, "Old Bill ".............
the kick in the pants which you get when you turn up the wick was there as of yore."
The Brough Superior Club was formed to carry on where the Vintage Club had left off, G.B. became the patron and was in demand at rallies. The rumble thump of broughs was heard again to the glee of the old-
His last ride when, defying doctors, he rode Albert Wallis's Austin engined outfit round Mallory on full chat at the Vintage Founders meeting created the final legend of his lifetime. Intuitively he knew that was how his fans both young and old would wish to remember him.
His memorial is the hundreds of very superior motorcycles cherished throughout the world and the fund of legends that endures with them.
Text taken from "Brough Superior from 1923” by C. E. "Titch" Allen