May 4, 2007 Could another gleaming gem of motorcycling history be revived? The rights to the legendary Brough Superior brand will go to auction this weekend at the Legend of the Motorcycle Concours d'Elegance in California. After being out of production since the end of the second world war, the buyer would have a chance to resurrect the original luxury motorcycle; the Rolls-Royce of two wheels and the favoured steed of Lawrence of Arabia.
Only around three thousand Brough (pronounced "Bruff") Superiors were ever made, but they were objects of unrivalled desire throughout the 1920s and 1930s. Famously, the bikes were assembled twice - firstly to determine the exact fit of each component, after which the bikes were dismantled and painted or plated as required before final assembly. Service from owner Geourge Brough and his team was exceptional - motorcycles were made to measure for the buyer, and each was road tested by the factory - both to ensure quality and to prove that the cycles would reach their advertised top speeds of 80 or 100mph.
Our own editor's father owned one of these rare and fabled machines in the pre-war years. Had he kept it, the Gizmag stable would contain one of the most sought-after classics in the motorcycling world, with a modern-day value of anywhere from US$40,000 to US$3,000,000.
T.E. Lawrence, the British war hero known as Lawrence of Arabia, was the bike's best-known devotee. He owned seven Brough Superiors, and died crashing the latest while awaiting delivery of the eighth. His passion for the bikes and for riding itself is borne out in a series of written pieces and letters to a friend, many of which are quite stirring to a rider's soul:
"When my mood gets too hot and I find myself wandering beyond control I pull out my motor-bike and hurl it top-speed through these unfit roads for hour after hour. My nerves are jaded and gone near dead, so that nothing less than hours of voluntary danger will prick them into life: and the 'life' they reach then is a melancholy joy at risking something worth exactly 2/9 a day."
It will be fascinating to see how Brough's bespoke approach and the brand's classic values are interpreted by the new owner - and what styling cues, if any, are retained from the early bikes. Thanks for indulging a moment of retrospection in an innovation magazine - we hope we have the chance to bring you more forward-looking news on this brand in the near future.
Details about the auction here.