The ex-Henry Laird Demonstrator
1938 Brough Superior 982cc SS100
Registration no. ETO 347
Frame no. M1/1936
Engine no. BS/X2 1039
Current ownership since January 1997
Restored in 2015
Legendary superbike of motorcycling's between-the-wars 'Golden Age,' Brough Superior - 'The Rolls-Royce of Motorcycles' - was synonymous with high performance, engineering excellence and quality of finish. That such a formidable reputation was forged by a motorcycle constructed almost entirely from bought-in components says much for the publicity skills of George Brough. But if ever a machine was more than the sum of its parts, it was the Brough Superior.
W E Brough's machines had been innovative and well engineered, and his son's continued the family tradition but with an added ingredient - style. The very first Brough Superior MkI of 1919 featured a saddle tank - an innovation not adopted by the rest of the British industry until 1928 - and the latter's broad-nosed, wedge-profiled outline would be a hallmark of the Nottingham-built machines from then on. Always the perfectionist, Brough bought only the best available components for his bikes, reasoning that if the product was right, a lofty price tag would be no handicap. And in the 'Roaring Twenties' there were sufficient wealthy connoisseurs around to prove him right.
Introduced in 1922, the JAP-powered SS80 achieved instant fame when a racing version ridden by George became the first sidevalve-engined machine to lap Brooklands at over 100mph. With the new SS80's performance threatening to put the overhead-valve MkI in the shade, it was decided to completely re-design the latter. The result was the legendary SS100. First shown to the public in 1924, the SS100 employed an entirely new 980cc JAP v-twin engine. A frame of duplex cradle type was devised for the newcomer, which soon after its launch became available with the distinctive, Harley-Davidson-influenced, Castle front fork patented by George Brough and Harold 'Oily' Karslake. And just in case prospective customers had any doubts about the SS100's performance, each machine came with a written guarantee that it had been timed at over 100mph for a quarter of a mile - a staggering achievement at a time when very few road vehicles of any sort were capable of reaching three-figure speeds.
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. The following year the SS100 adopted an overhead-valve version of the AMC power unit, and the two models continued to use the Plumstead-made engines until production ceased in 1939.
Its Brough Superior Club copy works record card reveals that this particular SS100 - frame number 'M1/1936', engine number 'BS/X2 1039' - was supplied new to C R Hussey in 1938. Records describe it as an ex-Henry Laird demonstrator with matching engine and frame numbers.
The current owner purchased the Brough in January 1997. We are advised that it was running well at that time and has only done a few hundred miles since. Previous owner Bob Shapiro had recently taken the Brough on a rally to Switzerland. Bob told the vendor that the engine had spent some time in a Morgan three-wheeler before being reunited with the frame. It is assumed that the extra oil feed to the top of the engine dates from its time in the Morgan.
Some time later, in 2015, the cycle parts were restored by Gordon Nicholls at British Classic Motorcycles of Yatton, Bristol. Gordon also removed the engine top-end for inspection and found that little required attention; a minor welded repair was made to one valve cover and rocker, and all eight cylinder barrel studs were replaced with stainless steel alternatives (invoice available). Additional paperwork consists of the 1997 purchase receipt, an old MoT (expired 1997) and an old-style V5 registration document.