Single family ownership from new
1925 Brough Superior 981cc SS80
Registration no. XY 6896
Frame no. 321
Engine no. 36431
While equalling a Rolls-Royce for quality of construction and finish, in spirit the Brough Superior was more akin to the sporting Bentley. In its maker's own words, the Brough Superior was 'a type of machine designed from the experienced solo rider's point of view.' To prove the point, Brough lost no time in demonstrating his machine's capabilities in the most attention-grabbing way possible - by racing at Brooklands. Introduced in 1922, the JAP-powered SS80 (so-called because of its guaranteed 80mph top speed in road trim) achieved instant fame when a stripped-for-racing version (nicknamed 'Spit and Polish') ridden by George became the first sidevalve-engined machine to lap the Surrey track at over 100mph. Even more surprising was the fact that this landmark figure had been achieved on its maker's Brooklands debut. That particular Brough Superior SS80 - subsequently re-christened 'Old Bill' - went on to win 51 out of 52 races contested, only failing in the last when a tyre burst.
An early Standard model fitted with JAP's four-cam, 981cc motor, this 'barn find' SS80 comes with Brough Superior Club copy Works Record Card showing that it was supplied new as a solo to the Allen Bennett Motor Co in Croydon, Surrey. The Brough was despatched from the factory on 7th April 1925 and 13 days later was registered to first owner Leonard Alfred Foster of Bexleyheath, Kent. The substantial history file (close inspection recommended) contains plentiful correspondence between George Brough and Leonard Foster, including an estimate dated July 12th 1927 for thoroughly stripping and rebuilding an SS80 (£15!), as well as numerous invoices for spare parts supplied. This correspondence also records the fact that the tank was sent back to the factory for repair and re-plating in July 1930. Unusually, all the related envelopes have been retained.
Of particular interest is an invitation to the Brough Superior Rally and Gymkhana held on 18th August 1929 at Chipping Norton, the programme for which is on file also. Following a lunch given by George Brough at the Town Hall, events at the Gymkhana Field included 'Musical Chairs' (Sidecars), 'Egg and Spoon Race' (Sidecars), 'Egg and Spoon Race' (Solo Sans Pillion), 'Obstacle Race' (Solo Avec Pillion), 'Threading the Needle' (Sidecars) and 'Slow Race' (Solo). It was further stated that, time permitting, there would also be a 'Humorous Race for Ladies' (Sidecars), 'Balloon Sticking', 'Sidecar Slow Race', etc.
The lunch menu had offered a main-course choice of roast beef, roast mutton, ham, steak and kidney pie or salad, with 'afters' of trifle, jellies, blancmange, jam tartlets and cheese and biscuits. Beverages on offer consisted of beer, stout, Johnny Walker whisky and (for the ladies) light claret, lemonade, port and ginger ale. Motor Cycling's reprinted report (on file) mentions toasts being drunk and 'glasses raised and drained', so one can only imagine how much extra repair work the subsequent activities generated for the Brough factory!
Pictured at the rally with a sidecar attached, 'XY 6896' was taken off the road in 1930 (its last tax disc expiring 30th June that year is still in the holder) it is believed because the original gearbox broke. (The current 'box, although of the correct type, was fitted only recently and is not original). Also included in the sale is a box of parts (gearchange lever and knob, various cables, gearbox end covers and shafts, kickstart lever, bearings, etc) while the handsome Bonniksen '100mph' speedometer (recording 4,378 miles) is a particularly noteworthy feature.
The machine is offered for sale with the aforementioned history, old-style continuation logbook (issued 1929), Gymkhana photograph (photocopy), old-style Swansea V5 and an original Brough Superior transfer. Brough Superiors still in the possession of the first owner's family - in all probability - can be counted on the fingers of one hand, so this wonderfully original and un-restored example, accompanied by its fascinating history file, represents a possibly once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for discerning collectors.
- The first line of the second paragraph should read: 'An early Standard model fitted with JAP's two-cam, 981cc motor...' not 'four-cam' as printed in the catalogue.