George Brough, of brough superior motorcycles

History of George Brough (from Wikipedia):

George Brough, (21 April 1890-1969), was a motorcycle racer, world record holding motorcycle and automobile manufacturer, and showman. He was known for his powerful and expensive Brough Superior motorcycles which were the first superbikes. George died in 1969 but his legacy lives on in the many Brough Superior motorcycles maintained in perfect condition by enthusiasts to this day.

George was the second son of motorcycle pioneer William Edward Brough and was born at 10 Mandalay Street, Basford, Nottingham on 21 April 1890. William Brough had been building motorcycles at his factory in Nottingham since the 1890s so it was expected that George and his brother would both join in the family business.

George wanted to develop his father's business and make high performance motorcycles. His father was not convinced, however, so George set up his own factory nearby in 1919 at Haydn Road in Nottingham to produce what he called the Brough Superior range of motorcycles and motor cars. The name Superior was suggested by a friend but his father reputedly took it personally. George's motorcycles lived up to the claim, however, and he brought together the best components he could find and added distincive styling details. He also had a flair for marketing and in 1922 rode a Brough Superior SS9-Brough Superior SS80 which he called Spit and Polish at managing an unofficial 100 mph (160 km/h) lap.

Approximately 3,048 motorcycles of 19 different models were made in 21 years of production. All Brough Superior motorcycles were high performance and superior quality. Most were custom built to specific customers requirements and rarely were any two of the same configuration. Each motorcycle was assembled twice. The first assembly was for fitting of all components, then the motorcycle was disassembled and all parts were painted or plated as needed, then the finished parts were assembled a final time. Every motorcycle was test ridden to ensure that it performed to specification, and was personally certified by George Brough. The SS100 model was ridden at 100 mph or more prior to delivery. The SS80 model was ridden at 80 mph (130 km/h) or more before delivery. If any motorcycle didn't meet specification, it returned to the shop for rework until it performed properly.

In 1928, George Brough recorded the speed of 130.6 mph (210.2 km/h) at Arpajon, unofficially the world's fastest speed on a solo motorcycle.

In 1929 a Brough SS100 was purchased by Sir William Lyons who two years later applied the same name to his own first four wheeled vehicle, much to Brough's disgruntlement at the time, though the two later became close friends. It is fair to recall that "S" and "S" were the first two initials of the Swallow Sidecar Company which Lyons had co-founded back in 1923.

In 1940, World War II brought an end to production as the factory was turned over to produce munitions. After hostilities had ceased there were no suitable engines available so the company was wound up.

In 2004, around 1,000 still existed, maintained by enthusiasts in perfect working order.

Obituary of "Mr. George Brough, Famous Motorcycle Maker" (from The Times, January 13, 1970):

Mr. George Brough, who died in Nottingham yesterday, at the age of 79, will be remembered for the legendary Brough Superior motor cycles which he designed and built in Nottingham.

Large, powerful, fast and beautifully finished, the Brough was sometimes called the two-wheeled Rolls-Royce. Being practically hand made a Brough was not cheap, its price between the two world wars was between £150 and £200.

George Brough's father, W. E. Brough, was also a designer and manufacturer and George once rode a Brough flat-twin, belt-driven in a Scottish Six-Day trial on a single gear.

"Ixion", the notable motorcycling journalist, recalls in his Motor Cycle Cavalcade, two memorable Brough ventures, a motor cycle incorporating an 800 c.c. Austin water-cooled engine and a "Golden Dream" with an embryo transverse four cylinder power unit.

Perhaps the most famous machine to come out of the Brough stable was the S.S. 100, which was powered by a 1,000 c.c. overhead valve J.A.P. vee-twin engine, super-tuned. Prospective buyers who called at the Brough factory could see it touch 100 m.p.h., on the road "possibly with the demonstrator riding with hands off". In 1937 one 1,000 c.c. model established a world speed record at nearly 170 m.p.h.

"T.E. Lawrence ("Lawrence of Arabia") was a passionate admirer of the make and found immense satisfaction and consolation in riding the various Broughs he owned, as can be gathered from his correspondence with George Brough and others--as interesting to motor-cycle enthusiasts as to those whose interest in Lawrence is historical or literary--which is to be found in his published Letters. He records many remarkable fast rides--and some crashes--and writing to E.M. Forster in 1925 mentions that some anonymous person or persons (it was, in fact, Mr. and Mrs. Bernard Shaw) that bought and sent him "a new and apolaustic Brough". He was riding one of his make when he was involved in his fatal road accident in 1935.

From 1939 to 1945, Brough's factory was devoted to sub-contracts for Rolls-Royce Merlin aircraft engines.

History of George Brough (edited from the Brough Superior Club website):

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 [Brough Superior motorcycle was the] "Rolls - Royce of motorcycles." The real measure of his achievement was that by life long dedication to the cause of perfection he raised the status of the luxury motorcycle to the point of acceptability by nobility, aristocracy and even royalty; and the image of his own machine to equality with the Roll-Royce car.

Brough superiors were always exclusive because so few were made: by manufacturing standards a mere handful of perhaps 3000.

Note: The Brough Superior Club ( contains extensive information and photographs on George Brough and his Brough Superior motorcycles.

History of the Brough Superior Motorcycle (from Wikipedia)

Brough Superior motorcycles, sidecars and motor cars were made by George Brough in his Brough Superior works on Haydn Road in Nottingham, England, from 1919 to 1940. They were dubbed the "Rolls-Royce" of Motorcycles" by H. D. Teague of The Motor Cycle newspaper. Approximately 3,048 of 19 models were made in 21 years of production. In 2004, around 1,000 still exist. T.E. Lawrence ("Lawrence of Arabia") owned seven bikes and died from injuries sustained while crashing one. George Bernard Shaw was another among many celebrities who were enthusiastic about Brough products.

George Brough was a racer, designer, and showman. All Brough Superior motorcycles were high performance and superior quality. Most were custom-built to the customer's needs, and rarely were any two of the same configuration. Each motorcycle was assembled twice. The first assembly was for fitting of all components, then the motorcycle was disassembled and all parts were painted or plated as needed, then the finished parts were assembled a second time. Every motorcycle was test ridden to ensure that it performed to specification, and was personally certified by George Brough. The SS100 model was ridden at 100 mph (160 km/h) or more prior to delivery. The SS80 model was ridden at 80 mph (130 km/h) or more before delivery. If any motorcycle did not meet specification, it returned to the shop for rework until it performed properly. The fit and finish was comparable to a Rolls-Royce car, and they were among the most expensive motorcycles.

Brough Superior motorcycles have always been rare and expensive. Prices for these motorcycles ranged from £130 to £180 in the 1920s and 1930s. Since the average weekly salary during 1920s and 1930s was £3 per week, only the wealthy were able to afford them. Because of their connection with Lawrence of Arabia, their high quality of fit and finish, and their reputation for reliability and race victories, they are among the most collectible motorised vehicles. In 2007, prices ranged from $40,000 to more than $3,000,000.

Brough Motorcycles and Rolls Royce (The Guardian, May 25, 1964)

After the 1914-1918 war, George Brough designed his motor-cycle to beat all others…. He called the machine the Brough Superior, and a journalist soon called it "the Rolls-Royce of Motor-cycles". When Brough mentioned this in an advertisement, Rolls-=Royce queried it, but after viewing his factory agreed to his use of the name. This seems to have been the only time that the use and the description "The Rolls-Royce of…" has been formally permitted.

Lawrence of Arabia and Brough Motorcycles (from Wikipedia):

Thomas Edward Lawrence (1888-1935)--known professionally as T.E. Lawrence--was a Lieutenant Colonel in the British Army. Lawrence was renowned for his liaison role during the Arab Revolt against Ottoman Turkish rule of 1916-1918. The extraordinary breadth and variety of his activities and associations, and his ability to describe them vividly in writing, earned him international fame as "Lawrence of Arabia", a title popularized by the 1962 film based on his life.

Lawrence was a keen motorcyclist, and, at different times, had owned seven Brough Superior motorcycles. His seventh motorcycle is on display at the British Imperial War Museum. In May 1935, at the age of 46 and two months after leaving military service, Lawrence was fatally injured in an accident on his Brough Superior SS100 motorcycle in Dorset, England, close to his cottage, Clouds Hill, near Wareham. A dip in the road obstructed his view of two boys on their bicycles; he swerved to avoid them, lost control and was thrown over the handlebars. He died six days later on 19 May 1935. The spot is marked by a small memorial at the side of the road.

The circumstances of Lawrence's death had far-reaching consequences. One of the doctors attending him was the neurosurgeon Hugh Cairns. He was profoundly affected by the incident, and consequently began a long study of what he saw as the unnecessary loss of life by motorcycle dispatch riders through head injuries. His research led to the use of crash helmets by both military and civilian motorcyclists. As a consequence of treating Lawrence, Sir Hugh Cairns would ultimately save the lives of many motorcyclists.

Brough Superior races at the Bonneville Salt Flats in 1949:

In August 1949, George Brough went to the Bonneville Salt Flats in western Utah to support Noel Pope in his hope to set a new world land speed record (then 173 mph) in an enclosed streamlined Brough Superior motorcycle. They calculated the streamlined motorcycle--named the "Silver Fish" because of its polished aluminum body shell--could possible reach a speed of 213 mph. However, on his first timed run, Noel Pope's motorcycle crashed after reaching 150 mph. Fortunately, Noel escaped serious injury. The information and photos below give details about this event and were taken from the book Brough Superior: The Complete Story, by Peter Miller, 2010, pages 179-181:

"Noel Pope made an early return to motorcycle racing…as soon as wartime [World War II] restrictions were relaxed. …A decision was taken in February 1949 to make a record attempt at the Bonneville Salt Flats the following August [1949]. Perhaps mindful of the effort and expense involved in bringing the record back to Britain, The Motor Cycle announced in March the offer of a challenge trophy and £500 to the first British rider on an all-British motorcycle to gain the official world's maximum motorcycle speed record. At this time the record of 173 mph, established in 1937 by Ernst Henne with his blown BMW, was still standing. "Pope's [Brough Superior motorcycle] engine was thought to produce 120 bhp, compared with the 78 bhp available to Henne, but the larger frontal area of the Brough cancelled out the power advantage unless the machine was fully streamlined. Blackburn and General Aircraft of Brough, East Yorkshire, designed a suitable streamlined shell. It was based upon aircraft practice and incorporated a large tail fin. On a road-going vehicle this resulted in the machine being overly sensitive to side winds. A third scale model was constructed for testing in the company's wind tunnel. The drag coefficient was determined to be 0.00026 and, with a frontal area of 8.4 square feet, the estimated speed at the altitude of Bonneville was 213 mph. The body was constructed in aluminum using 16-gauge sheet for the paneling; it weighted under 70 lb. The overall length was 12 feet 1 inch, width (neglecting the stabilizing fins) 31-1/2 inch and height from the ground to the top of the find 5 feet 6 inches; the canopy height was 4 feet 3 inches. The all-up weight including the 10-stone rider was 650 lb.

" ...The bike, body shell and spares were packed into crates and dispatched to the docks. It had been intended to ship by cargo boat, but the delays meant the containers had to accompany Noel Pope, Teddy Comerford and George Brough as they set sail on the Queen Elizabeth. On arrival in New York, arrangements were made for the crates to be sent by express rail while the party drove to Salt Lake City. When the crates failed to arrive after several days, a search revealed that they were still in New York and the subject of a meticulous customs search; they arrived ten days late. The Brough was quickly unpacked and test runs carried out to adjust the carburation for the high altitude. Speeds over 150 mph were reached and Noel felt confident that he could exceed 200 mph with the streamlining fitted. However, when the remaining crates were opened, the body shell, the three sections of which had been packed in slings for safe travel, was little more than a crumpled mass on the floor of the crate. Despite George's best panel-beating endeavors, the panels remained poorly aligned, and considerable force was required to close them in order to bolt them into place.

"After a few short trial runs, Noel Pope decided to attempt a timed run. He was travelling at a claimed 150 mph in second gear and preparing to change up when the machine started to veer to the right away from the black marker line and towards the 4 inch deep salt ripples at the side of the track. He adjusted his weight to the left of the machine to counter the drift, but this had no effect, and when he attempted to steer using the handlebars the machine went into a lock-to-lock wobble. The machine crashed heavily. Noel was thrown clear and was fortunate to escape serious injury as he tumbled along the salt ahead of the bike before ending underneath it.

"The accident destroyed the shell, but the bike appeared undamaged, and a few days later Noel was back on the salt with the unenclosed machine for a second attempt. He had not carried out a methodical examination of the bike as he would normally following an accident. He was mindful of not returning empty-handed after all the effort in getting to Bonneville, but also he must have wished for the sake of his own confidence to be back in the saddle as soon as possible. He made a few runs at 140-150 mph, but all was not well. The engine appeared off tune, it jumped out of top gear and the vibration was terrific. There was no alternative other than to abandon the attempt. A subsequent strip-down revealed a broken frame and a damaged gearbox."

(The above quoted paragraphs about George Brough and the Brough Superior race at the Bonneville Salt Flats in 1949 comes from the book Brough Superior: The Complete Story, by Peter Miller, 2010, pages 179-181. Additional information about this 1949 event can be found in the book Legends in Their Lifetime: George Brough & Lawrence of Arabia, by C.E. 'Titch' Allen, 2010, pages 168-169.)

History of Brough Superior Cars (from Wikipedia):

George Brough made approximately 85 cars named Brough Superior. Built between 1935 and 1939, they were powered by Hudson engines and had Hudson chassis. Three models were made, but only two reached production. Early cars did not carry Brough Superior badges as Brough thought the cars sufficiently distinctive in themselves.

The first car was the 4 litre made from 1935 to 1936 using a 114 bhp (85 kW), 4168 cc side valve, straight-8 engine. Performance was remarkable for the time with a top speed of 90 mph (140 km/h) and a 0-60 mph (97 km/h) time of 10 seconds. The drop head coachwork was by Atcherley of Birmingham.

Hudson stopped supplying the 8-cylinder engine in 1936, and subsequent cars had a 107 bhp (80 kW), 3455 cc straight-6, still with side valves and called the 3.5 litre. A Centric supercharged version was also listed with a claimed output of 140 bhp (100 kW). The chassis was 4 inches (100 mm) shorter than the 4 litre at 116 inches. Saloon bodies were available but most were open cars. Approximately 80 were made between 1936 and 1939.

The final car, the XII made in 1938, used a Lincoln-Sephyr V12 engine of 4387 cc and Brough's own design of chassis with Girling brakes and Ford axles. Only one was made with a saloon body built by Charlesworth. A large car with an overall length of 219 inches (5,600 mm) and width of 71 inches (1,800 mm), it still survives.

Journalist Bill Boddy tested an early model Brough Superior Saloon in 1936 for Motor Sport magazine. Noting the car had a reserve fuel tank, he declined to fill up before the journey. Upon running out of petrol, he could not find the switch to activate the reserve. After begging petrol from a passing lorry Boddy then encountered a motorcyclist who had crashed, and offered to assist. When asked, he told Boddy that his bike was a Brough Superior and asked what was 'the nice car in which you are giving me a lift'. When told it was a Brough Superior the motorcyclist was silent for the rest of the journey. Boddy presumed this was incredulity that a famed motorcycle maker could also manufacture cars, and supposed that the motorcyclist presumed he was concussed.

BBC information about this 2014 Memorial Plaque event can be found here.

Organizations that support Brough Superior Motorcycles and Cars

Brough Superior Club

Brough Superior Motorcycles Ltd

Genealogy of George Brough (1890-1970)

George Brough's great-grandfather, William Brough (1804-1880) was born prior to the marriage of his parents, Thomas Slack and Ann Brough. This matter was known by a number of William's descendants as some of them changed their name over time from Brough to Slack. In fact, George Brough's grandfather, Edward Brough (1841-1893) used both the surname "Brough" and "Slack" during his adult life. The chart below shows the Slack and Brough ancestry of George Brough. George's "Brough" ancestry goes back to the Broughs of North Wingfield, Derbyshire, in the 1600's, and then to the Broughs of Leek, Staffordshire, in the 1500's.

Genealogies of the Slacks and Broughs of Derbyshire are listed within the "Genealogies" section of the BFO website.

Brough Ancestors of George Brough (1890-1970)

Anthony Brough, b.abt.1561, Waterhouse, Leek, Staffordshire, England

Anthony Brough, b.abt.1590, Tittesworth, Staffordshire, England

James Brough, b.abt.1617, Tittesworth, Staffordshire, England

James Brough, b.abt.1641, North Wingfield, Derbyshire, England

Anthony Brough, chr.1694, North Wingfield, Derbyshire, England

James Brough, chr.1738, Skegby by Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, England

Ann Brough, chr.1786, Sutton in Ashfield, Nottinghamshire, England

William Brough, chr.1804, Pinxton, Derbyshire, England

Edward Brough, b.1841, Alfreton, Derbyshire, England

William Edward Brough, b.1861, Basford, Nottinghamshire, England

George Brough, b.1890, Basford, Nottinghamshire, England; d.1970