1937 Brough SS80_1

Elegance, performance and limited production are what have made Brough (pronounced “bruff”) motorcycles world renowned as the best out of England and Europe before World War II.  Most would say they were the best in the world at the time.

George Brough, the son of W.E. Brough, raced his father’s motorcycles, then went on to make his own, eventually naming them Brough-Superiors. George Brough’s personal SS80 became the first flat-head production motorcycle to hit 100 mph while lapping at Brooklands. Yet it was no scruffy racer; he nicknamed it “Spit and Polish” for its concours finish.

The SS80, so called because it was a Super Sports model that was guaranteed to exceed 80 mph, was designed and first built in 1920 using the John Alfred Prestwich, or J.A.P., 988 cc side-valve or flat-head, V-twin engine. In fact, over the years Brough manufactured few components in-house but rather sought the best engines, transmissions, hubs, at one point even adapted Harley-Davidson forks. Brough made motorcycles most would agree were “better than the sum of their parts.” Such was its sales success that when the bigger SS100 was launched in late 1924, it was able to continue profitably in production through to 1939.

Tracing Brough design history, it’s interesting to see the wide range of engines, even chassis layouts Brough experimented with. “Boxer” and in-line fours were used in prototypes. A recent auction brought to light a three wheeled prototype for sidecar work that used a pair of wheels at the rear just inches apart!

In 1935, the J.A.P. engine was substituted for the 982 cc Matchless V-twin albeit with a Brough designed and modified bottom end and special camshaft grind, as George sought greater perfection and stronger performance. Over the years, total production of just over 1,000 units was almost equally split between J.A.P. and Matchless-engine machines. This example has the Matchless motor. By 1935, Matchless owned both AJS and Sunbeam and was also, at the time, the sole engine supplier to Morgan for their three-wheeled sports car.

Broughs were made from 1921 to 1940 with World War II halting production. Since Brough relied on other makers for engines and temporarily there were few after the War, George Brough’s company ceased production permanently. Capitalizing on a great history, much like Polaris has done with Indian, today a firm with rights to the name is once again building Brough-Superiors, thoroughly modern motorcycles which bear an outward resemblance to the originals.

This Brough-Superior SS80 is currently on loan to the National Motorcycle Museum by Aaron Mohr of Clinton, Iowa. It will be among hundreds of motorcycles and thousands of pieces of memorabilia offered in the John Parham Estate Collection Mecum Auction. Watch for information on the Mecum Auctions website, Mecum.com, motorcycles and memorabilia from the John Parham Estate Collection, all auctioned at the National Motorcycle Museum, Anamosa, Iowa, September 6 – 9, 2023. For schedule information, to consign a vehicle or to register as a bidder for this and all Mecum events, visit Mecum.com, or call (262) 275-5050 for more information.


    • Engine: 982cc Side-Valve, Air-cooled, 50 Degree V-Twin
    • Bore & Stroke: 85.5mm x 85.5mm
    • Horsepower: 32 Rated
    • Lubrication: Dry Sump
    • Ignition: Magneto
    • Carburetion: Remote Float Amal
    • Starting: Kick, Only
    • Transmission: 4-Speed Burman
    • Primary: Chain Driven
    • Final Drive: Roller Chain
    • Frame: Lugged, Tubular Steel
    • Suspension: Sprung Fork, Rigid Rear, Sprung Seat
    • Brakes: Drum, Front and Rear
    • Wheelbase: 59 Inches
    • Price, 1937: $160
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