Single family ownership for 59 years
1938 Brough Superior 982cc SS80 & Blacknell Sidecar
Registration no. GWL 4
Frame no. M8/2006
Engine no. BSX 4706
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 makers own words, the Brough Superior was a type of machine designed from the experienced solo riders point of view. To prove the point, Brough lost no time in demonstrating his machines 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 makers 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.
Brough entered the 1930s with an entirely JAP-powered range and then, after a brief absence, the SS80 reappeared in 1935 as the SS80 Special, this time with an engine built by Associated Motor Cycles. Similar to that of the Matchless Model X, the 982cc sidevalve v-twin incorporated Broughs preferred knife-and-fork big-end bearing arrangement instead of the side-by-side connecting rods of the Matchless. By now recast in the mould of luxury tourer or sidecar tug, the SS80 continued to use the AMC engine until production ceased in 1939.
This example is one of 460 Matchless-engined SS80s built, of which some 300-or-so survive. Its accompanying Brough Superior Owners Club record card shows that this machine was supplied new to Laytons of Oxford in July 1938, where it was registered with the mark GWL 4. It was subsequently purchased from its first owner by Jack Billard in May 1947. Jack owned the Brough for 58 years until his death in December 2005, aged 85. He had used it regularly until 2002, when non-motorcycling injury meant he could no longer ride!
During WW2, Jack Billard was employed making components for the Spitfire fighter, and after hostilities ceased became a specialist panel beater, making wings for Rolls-Royce and Bentley cars. Jack was a keen motorcycle enthusiast, owning a Rudge and a Vincent before the Brough. When he married in 1948, he added a single-seat sidecar to the Brough, which was replaced by the current Blacknell Safety 2 after his second daughter was born in 1955. The Brough combo became the familys main form of transport, with wife and daughters taking it in turns to ride pillion or in the Blacknells full-size seats. Sundays were spent riding through the Kent or Sussex countryside towards the coast or attending Brough Club events, winning the odd trophy along the way. In spite of this regular use, the Brough has covered only 17,705 miles in nearly 70 years.
Jack Billard was not one to polish the Brough or sidecar. His priority was to see that the combination was properly maintained and roadworthy at all times. Jack fitted flashing indicators, choosing his own somewhat idiosyncratic colour code for the wiring, and added a Rolls-Royce picnic table for the convenience of the passenger in the Blacknells back seat. The original engine was fettled in 2002/3 by Dave Clark of the Brough Superior Club and is, we are advised, in good working order.
A much loved and respected part of Billard family history, the machine is offered with the aforementioned BSOC record card, copy Blacknell invoice (dated 16th April 1955) from T C Munday & Co Ltd, expired MoT (August 2002), Swansea V5 registration document and SORN (expires 30.09.07).