Parts and parcels
In relation to the letter in OBA61 titled “Superior? Blah!”, by R. Robinson of Bellambi, NSW. George Brough’s father, William Brough, produced a motorcycle called a Brough. His son George wanted to create his own motorcycle and so chose the name Brough Superior to say his bikes were better than his father’s. What he also decided to do was to make his bikes to a very high standard, even to the level that a customer could order a new bike to their standards and specifications. To claim that a motorcycle can’t be of a high standard because it uses parts from other manufacturers is nonsense. Brough Superior started producing motorcycles in 1919 at Haydn Road in Nottingham. This was just after WW1 had finished. To attempt to create a motorcycle manufacturing business that manufactured all its own parts at a time when the number of motorcyclists in the world was small, and many of those pre-WW1 motorcyclists in Britain had died on places like the Somme, would have been madness. Instead George Brough decided to create a motorcycle that was better than any other using proprietary parts and making each machine able to be tailored by each person. The name “Rolls Royce of Motorcycles” was coined by H. D. Teague in The Motor Cycle newspaper, not by George, although he was quite willing to use that term, although it is known, understandably, to have upset Rolls Royce at the time. George used Sturmey-Archer gearboxes, as did many other makes of motorcycle. The gearboxes were also made in Nottingham. Most British manufacturers used proprietary gearboxes; AJS, Matchless, Triumph, and others. Yes, Norton gearboxes were used, but only in the last few years of Brough Superior manufacture. Electrics could be various makes as could be engines, such as J.A.P. v-twins, which were rebuilt to ensure precision function. When you consider that there were only around 3,000 Brough Superiors made in the 21 years of manufacture, it hardly compares to over 24,500 Hondas alone that were sold in Australia in 2015. The way bikes today are constructed is
hugely different from the way they were. They can afford to be. But Broughs were constructed to a very high standard out of whatever parts either the company used or the customer ordered. With written guarantees of either 80mph (SS80) or 100mph (SS100), it’s no wonder they attracted buyers like George Bernard Shaw and T. E. Lawrence. The Austin 7 powered Brough Superior ‘Straight Four’ was an attempt to have a more powerful motorcycle from a similar capacity engine other than the air-cooled vtwins. It also showed the creative thinking of George as it had two rear wheels with a central drive.
Rolls Royce has used Lucas electrical parts, and for some models, engines made in Germany by BMW. Norton have used Lucas, Amal, Smiths and Lockheed parts, Ducati use Brembo brakes. How many of us ride motorcycles or drive cars that have spark plugs made by the company that built the vehicle? At what point is it acceptable to have the number of parts that are not made by the manufacturer ignored to avoid ridicule? If R. Robinson has a Brough Superior of any sort that he believes is worthless because of the mix of parts, I will gladly take it off his hands and give him a few dollars as well, to both compensate and apologise for a fellow Nottingham lad, George Brough, taking advantage of him. Brough Superior – better than the sum of its parts. Charley Reeve V.M.C.C.
What would old George have thought of this? Leigh Goodall’s take on what might have been, photographed by Ron Weste ant the 2105 All British Rally.