1938 Brough Superior SS80De Luxe & Petrol Tube Sidecar
Year of manufacture4/1938
Chassis numberM8/ I997
Engine numberBS/X 4691
- Chassis # M8/1977
- Engine # BS/X 4691
- A Fantastic Example Of What Is Often Called "The Rolls-Royce" Of Motorcycles
- 1 Of Only 460 Produced With The 990cc Matchless V-Twin Engine
- Offered With Its Original Factory "Petrol Tube" Sidecar
- Benefiting From A Recent Mechanical Refreshening
While equalling a Rolls-Royce for quality of construction and finish, the sporty spirit of the Brough Superior drew more lines to a Bentley. Not an unwieldy beast intended primarily for sidecar duties like the majority of its v-twin-engined contemporaries, the Brough Superior was, in its maker’s own words, “a type of machine designed from the experienced solo rider’s point of view.” To prove the point, Brough lost no time in demonstrating his machine’s capabilities in the most attention-grabbing way possible – by racing at Brooklands. Introduced in 1922, the JAP (J.A. Prestwick) powered SS80, 80 moniker was given 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 side-valve-engine or flat head machine to lap the Surrey track at over 100mph. Even more surprising was the fact that this landmark figure had been achieved on its maker’s 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 tire burst.
Brough entered the 1930s with an entirely JAP engine-powered lineup, and then, after a brief absence, the SS80 re-appeared in 1935 as the SS80 Special, this time with an engine built by AJS/Matchless similar in design to the Matchless MX Model. Where it differed was that the 982cc side-valve v-twin incorporated Brough’s preferred ‘knife-and-fork’ big-end bearing arrangement instead of the side-by-side connecting rods of the Matchless MX. The SS80 continued to use the Matchless-based engine until production ceased in 1939. Following shortly after, on the successful heels of the SS80 Special, was the SS80 “De Luxe”. The “De Luxe” featured some of George Brough’s more advanced designs on it including a fully sprung rear wheel, bottom link front forks, a patented rolling stand, and a specially tuned engine. When the dark clouds of WWII rolled over the UK, production of Brough Superior motorcycles ceased and they began their wartime efforts of completing crankshafts for Rolls-Royce Merlin engines. Once the war ceased and production lines were left in shambles, there were, unfortunately, no suitable engines to be had to continue motorcycle production, and the Brough Superior company was forced to shut its doors for good.
This example on offer here, U.K. Registration EOC 249 and chassis # M8/I997 is a 1938 Brough Superior SS80 “De Luxe” equipped with its original Brough Superior ‘petrol tube’ sidecar, chassis no.178. This very special sidecar consists of a single tube frame, containing a 1.5-gallon reserve, handy for those longer trips. This example is matching numbers, with the engine correctly stamped BS/X 4691, which is shown in the numerous historical documents included with this stunning motorcycle. It is a highly correct example and currently wears the same black with gold accenting and black and red sidecar that it left the factory with, although it has undoubtedly been restored at least once in its long lifetime.
Chassis 1997 left the factory on 16th April 1938 and was collected by F.E. Thacker & Co. who was the Birmingham Brough Superior agent with a showroom at 343 Moseley Road, Birmingham. 1997 included many of the available “options” at the time including a left-hand side brake pedal, Amal sports handlebars with dual internal twist grips, Cranford hinged rear guard, Wasdell front guard, top and bottom rear chain covers, voltage control, and rear footrests, among others. This SS80 appears to have survived the wartime travesties unscathed, although records for this period are absent. The next available documentation of this motorcycle’s whereabouts comes from a registration booklet which shows it still residing in Birmingham in 1959. In 1960 registration stamps changed to Leicestershire County before showing up in South Witham in 1967 owned by Leonard Geeson of the Geeson Brothers Motorcycle Museum & Workshop. It remained in the loving possession of the Geeson Brothers until 2003 when it was sold to a gentleman who resided here in the United States. Chassis 1997 would change hands one more time, more recently, when it wound up with the current owner and consignor who is based in Michigan. Upon his purchase of chassis 1997, it was not running and contained some incorrect parts. The current owner, an experienced motorcycle mechanic, took it upon himself to get this SS80 up and running and with the help of the Brough Superior club and similar experts, replaced some of the incorrect items as well, leaving this special motorcycle in highly correct and great mechanical condition today.
As this SS80 sits today, It is finished in black livery with gold accents and script. The sidecar is finished in two-tone red/black with pleated red upholstery, believed to be its original color scheme as well. The paint throughout the bike remains in good condition with a consistent finish across the machine. It is believed to be an older restoration so there are some imperfections, such as some haziness on the tank, likely from spilled fuel over the years as well as some minor chipping of paint in high wear areas such as the nose of the sidecar. The gold pinstriping remains in great condition and sets off the lines of the tank beautifully. Rubber components throughout the bike are in great condition. There is a bit of light wear on the rubber tank side panels from normal use but nothing that detracts from the overall presentation of the machine. Brightwork throughout the motorcycle remains in excellent condition with good shine and consistency and minimal pitting on some of the older, likely original pieces such as the fuel and oil cap located on top of the tank. The correct headlight and taillight are in place showing very nicely, with only a bit of dirt showing in the bucket of the headlight from normal use. The leather on the solo seat, pillion seat, and saddlebags remains in good order, with nice color and smooth texture. The main controls are all in excellent order, with newer-looking handlebar grips and controls. The Smiths speedometer/odometer is in good order, with bright legible numbers and only a bit of fading on the rolling faces of the odometer section. The Lucas Amp meter mounted in the headlight bucket is similarly in nice condition with bright legible lettering. The engine appears quite clean and tidy overall, with no outward signs of any issues. The cylinder heads retain a nice consistent coat of black paint with solid, issue-free cooling fins. Overall this SS80 presents fantastically well for the age.
When the current owner and consignor purchased this special machine, it had been sitting for quite some time and although it was in largely the same state it is presented in now, it was not in running condition. He went meticulously through the machine and repaired and replaced what was needed. All fluids were flushed and changed, the head gaskets had a slight leak and were replaced with correct copper gaskets, the correct tail light was fitted, the entire electrical system was overhauled for proper function and includes period-correct wires, the factory Amal handlebars were put back onto the bike, and the carburetor was rebuilt. Today, chassis 1997 is in strong mechanical order. It starts with surprising ease and settles easily into a smooth idle. Brief road testing was carried out and overall this motorcycle seems to be mechanically sound but should future buyers want to put extended miles on it, this SS80 should have a thorough once over to ensure safety and reliability, much like any machine of this age.
This 1938 Brough Superior SS80 Deluxe is truly a stunning and elegant-looking machine. These motorcycles are rare, as production numbers were never as high as some of their other famous counterparts and owners tend to hold onto them. These two factors mean the chance to purchase one of these iconic motorcycles does not come up very often. Chassis 1997 represents a unique opportunity to own not only an example of the “Rolls-Royce of Motorcycle” but a highly correct version with excellent history, strong mechanicals, and the unique addition of its factory-supplied ‘Petrol Tube’ sidecar.
Included with the sale of this SS80 is an old-style buff logbook from 1959, Swansea V5 registration document, period specification sheet, and a number of other historical documents.
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