1929 Brough Superior
1929 Brough Superior 986cc SS100 'Alpine Grand Sports'
Registration no. UY 4993
Frame no. S987
Engine no. JTO/C 21326/T
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. One such was T E Lawrence 'Lawrence of Arabia' who owned several Broughs and was killed riding an SS100.
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 redesign the latter. The result was the legendary SS100. First shown to the public in 1924, the SS100 employed an entirely new overhead-valve 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.
With this level of performance available in road trim, it was only to be expected that the SS100 would make an impact on the race track, particularly the ultra-fast Brooklands oval, and the exploits of Brough Superior riders - among them Le Vack, Temple, Baragwanath, Fernihough and Pope - did much to burnish the marque's image. When Brooklands closed forever at the outbreak of WW2, Noel Pope's Brough Superior held both the sidecar and solo lap records, the latter at an average speed of 124.51mph.
Success in an altogether different branch of motorcycle sport resulted in one of Brough's most iconic models: the SS100 'Alpine Grand Sports' or 'AGS'. Introduced in September 1925 for the 1926 season, this new machine took its name from the Austrian Alpine Trial, the 1925 event having been contested by a number of SS100s, one ridden by George Brough himself, resulting in the award of six cups, including one for 'Best Performance'. The introduction of the Alpine Grand Sports coincided with that of a new frame for the SS100, and the AGS came as standard with a lower compression ratio (making it more suitable for touring), a small fly-screen and a pair of tool boxes.
Brough entered the 1930s with an entirely JAP-powered range and then in 1936 the SS100 was redesigned with an engine built by Associated Motor Cycles, in which form it continued until production ceased in 1939. Lighter and faster than the subsequent Matchless-engined version, the JAP-powered SS100 has long been regarded as the ultimate incarnation of this famous model.
This particular SS100 - frame number 'S1987', engine number 'JTO/C 21326/T' - was despatched on 13th March 1929 complete with the spring frame, Castle forks and a Cruiser sidecar, as recorded on the accompanying copy of its Works Record Card. The machine was collected from the factory and first owned by one H A Preston, who presumably lived in Worcestershire as the Brough was registered there. The WRC states that 'S987' was supplied with dual headlamps, switch on tank top, large AGS carrier and bags, seat tube oil tank with Bowden control, and interestingly the old type frame.
A Brough Club record (copy on file) lists its owners from circa 1953 to 2010 when the machine was purchased at auction by the current vendor. Its immediately preceding owner was Mr Frank Solano, who had purchased the SS100 from the late Brian Verrall in May 1985 and taken it back to his home in Massachusetts, USA before returning to the UK with it in the mid-1990s. The Brough was then restored (circa 2000/2001) by renowned marque specialist Tony Leedal and used extensively on tours to Scotland, France, Spain, Italy and Austria.
Offered with the aforementioned records, expired MoT (2012), an old-style V5 and current V5C documents, 'UY 4993' represents a possibly once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to acquire a well documented example of one of these legendary Alpine Grand Sports SS100 models, boasting matching registration, frame and engine numbers.