Home » The ‘Rolls-Royce Of Motorcycles’ Is Coming To America And Good God, You’re Going To Want One

The ‘Rolls-Royce Of Motorcycles’ Is Coming To America And Good God, You’re Going To Want One

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A century ago, the motorcycle industry was in a wild phase of rapid innovation where pioneers the world over figured out new and exciting ways to make motorcycles faster and more reliable. One builder revved his imagination particularly deeply into the redline, creating machines so grand a journalist dubbed them the “Rolls-Royce of motorcycles.”

That builder was George Brough, namesake of Brough Superior. The original company is long gone, but it has been revived in France with motorcycles that look like the ones of old, but with modern power. Brough Superior has now set up an office in North America, and soon you might see modern interpretations of a British icon right here on our roads.

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Retro motorcycles have been on a roll in recent years. Royal Enfield has made a name for itself selling motorcycles that harken back to the 1950s and 1960s but filling them with modern tech like fuel injection and ABS. Japanese marques have been reviving retro designs of their own from the Kawasaki W800 to the Honda Monkey. Vintage style is in and it’s awesome because you can feel like you’re riding a time machine without having to deal with the reliability of a motorcycle that’s older than you are.

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Americans are already pretty spoiled for choice for vintage-style rides and now we’re going to get yet another old-school style machine, but this one carries a truly iconic name. Brough Superior, a name so famous people will pay over $100,000 for a good vintage example, is bringing its motorcycles to America.

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A British Icon

Many of our American readers may have no idea what Brough Superior is, and I can forgive them. The original Brough Superior stopped producing civilian motorcycles in 1939 and then disappeared entirely after World War II. It’s estimated that Brough built 3,048 motorcycles over 21 years. So, the old-school Brough Superiors are a rare sight, if you’ve even get to see one at all.

The Brough story starts with William E. Brough. According to most sources, Brough was a coal miner who, like many inventors of the era, began experimenting with slapping motors on bicycles and tricycles. William Brough’s first motorcycle was built in 1902 and by 1908, he turned his passion for motorcycles into a business.

George Brough

William’s son George Brough grew up helping out in his father’s business, where he learned the ins and outs of building motorcycles. The young Brough also became a motorcycle racer, winning the London to Edinburgh and back trial in 1910, 1911, and 1912. Also in 1912 was a first-place finish in the Scottish Six Days Trial. After World War I, George Brough partnered up with his father in the motorcycle business. However, it was reportedly an argument in 1919 that changed the course of motorcycle history.

A Brief History Of The Brough Su

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The alleged disagreement revolved around how best to move forward in the motorcycle business. William was fond of flat tanks and parallel-twin engines while George was smitten by the sorts of V-twins served up by Harley-Davidson. But the young Brough wasn’t going to copy the Americans. Instead, he wanted to build a motorcycle that was better – superior, even – to anything that had come before. His motorcycles would have great power, handling, and quality, not unlike the grand luxury cars of what would become the Roaring Twenties.

To make his luxury motorcycle a reality, George cashed out on the family business in 1919 and in the same year constructed a shop on Haydn Road in Nottingham. Brough Superior Motorcycles was born.

A Brief History Of The Brough Su (2)

Brough produced just a handful of models over the years, and like other builders, he equipped his motorcycles with the engines and parts of other manufacturers. The first Brough Superiors had 986cc JAP (J.A. Prestwich) V-twins, Amac carburetors, ML magnetos, Sturmey-Archer transmissions, and Montgomery forks. Other engine options included a 999cc sleeve-valve V-twin from Barr & Stroud, or an F-head engine from Motosacoche in Switzerland.

How did he stand out? Even though Brough was using components from other manufacturers, he treated his motorcycles like they were bespoke cars. Those components were custom-ordered and most Brough Superior motorcycles were custom builds. Brough was so obsessed with quality that he built his motorcycles twice.

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He built a motorcycle first for parts compatibility and for testing. Then, once he verified everything was good, he tore the motorcycle down, painted and plated the parts, then assembled the motorcycle again. Each motorcycle would then go through testing to ensure it performed exactly as Brough advertised and the motorcycles would go out to their customers with a speed guarantee. If a motorcycle build didn’t meet Brough’s standards, he tore it apart and rebuilt it.

The most famous Brough Superior model was introduced in 1924, and I’ll let the Audrain Auto Museum describe just how awesome the SS100 was and still is:

Brough Ss 100 Factory Look X

The Brough Superior SS100 (Super Sports) was designed and built by George Brough in Nottingham, England in 1924. The first custom motorcycle with components chosen from many different suppliers, the SS100 was designed to meet specific customer requirements. All bikes had a guarantee that they were capable of 100 mph (160 km/h). In 1928, George Brough broke his own world record with 130.6 mph (210.2 km/h).

At £200 (equivalent to about $15,000 today), they were advertised by Brough as the “Rolls-Royce of Motorcycles.” The term was coined by a magazine road tester in his review of the bike, and Brough eventually obtained explicit permission to use it after a Rolls-Royce executive toured the Brough Superior factory.

Every owner was encouraged by Brough to suggest their own ideas for developing the SS100, which meant that almost all his motorcycles were uniquely hand-built and the design continually evolving.

A Brief History Of The Brough Su (1)

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Famous SS100 owners included Orson Welles, “Lawrence of Arabia” T.E. Lawrence, and playwright George Bernard Shaw. Sadly, the company wasn’t meant to be. Civilian motorcycle production ceased so Brough Superior could aid in the World War II effort. After the war, Brough claimed to have found no suitable engines for his enterprise, and he decided to close up shop while Brough Superior was still known as one of the best motorcycle manufacturers in the world.

The Rebirth

Reportedly, the Brough Superior name has been passed through a bunch of different caretakers, none of them successful in reviving the storied brand. That was until British motorcycle enthusiast and businessman Mark Upham bought the name in 2008. Like Brough, he wanted to build a lavish, outrageously well-built motorcycle.

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In 2009, Upham started building his new motorcycles based on the 1927 design of the Brough Superior SS100, calling his new bikes the Brough Superior SS101. These looked like the real deal and were just as exclusive. Back then, a new Brough Superior would set you back $250,000 or so depending on how you configured it.

Upham passed the reborn Brough Superior name and production to French industrialist and custom motorcycle builder Thierry Henriette. Under Henriette’s ownership, the brand has shifted from replicating the past to building brand-new, advanced motorcycles with the same principles as the Brough of old. And Henriette wasn’t a nobody. He had a reputation for building stellar custom motorcycles since 1979 through his own Boxer Design, so bringing Brough Superior into the future wasn’t an impossible endeavor.

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If you want an example of what Henriette worked on before Brough Superior, check out the Aprilia Blue Marlin and the Mondial Nuda. The Mondial is below:

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Mondial

The revived again French Brough Superior first displayed its new SS100 in 2013 and the motorcycle went into production in 2016. Since then, the brand has developed an entire lineup of striking bikes. This summer, Brough Superior is opening stores in select cities, where you’ll be able to plunk down a ton of cash on your choice of three motorcycles.

The SS100

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The first motorcycle in the American Brough Superior lineup is the SS100, which is supposed to call back to the SS100 of the 1920s. The company says that each SS100, like all new Brough Superiors, is built by hand in France.

Brough Superior goes on to note that the new SS100 features a titanium frame, a titanium subframe, four disc brakes, LED lighting, and parts machined out of solid blocks of aluminum and you also get a CNC machined block of a rear swingarm. A neat hat trick of a modern Brough Superior is its Fior double-fork suspension. I’ll let Brough Superior explain:

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The double wishbone Fior fork machined form billet aluminum dissociates steering and braking functions, resulting in a precise steering and stability that gives a securing feeling. The motorcycle is not diving when braking and remains really stable while cornering with brakes.

Do motorcycles really need a titanium frame and billet aluminum everything? Of course not, but boutique brands love building bikes like this because they’re supposed to be as much art as they are machines. I suppose that’s not too much unlike a modern Rolls-Royce, too.

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Power comes from a 997cc 88-degree V-twin of Boxer Design of Toulouse, France. It is built and designed by Akira Engineering of Bayonne and it’s making 102 HP and 64 lb-ft of torque. Earlier, I mentioned how the SS100 has four disc brakes. To elaborate further, that’s four 230mm Beringer rotors just for the front wheel that are clamped on by two four-piston Beringer calipers. The rear wheel gets one 230mm rotor with a two-piston caliper. The motorcycle also rides on 18-inch wheels and has a weight of 410 pounds said to be distributed perfectly 50/50.

Looking at Brough Superior’s website, in addition to having your motorcycle customized to your liking, you can also order your SS100 in different colorways and with different fairings, each paying homage to some famous SS100 of the past.

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Missing from Brough Superior’s advertising is a guaranteed top speed, which seems like a miss since guaranteed speeds were such a big deal to the original company. Also unclear is how many units Brough Superior plans on selling in the United States. Brough Superior’s website suggests that the brand sells a limited number of motorcycles each year. For example, Brough Superior marked a maximum of 617 units of the SS100 to be produced in 2022.

The Lawrence

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Next up is the modern interpretation of the Brough Superior ridden by T.E. Lawrence, and this one looks pretty far out. Here’s Brough Superior’s description:

The latest addition to Brough Superior’s French workshop, Lawrence is the ultimate 21st century pillion motorcycle. Its luxurious aesthetics were inspired by the sleek, flowing curve of the traditional Bedouin dagger used by Lawrence of Arabia – the man who helped bring this brand its legendary status and who also inspired this eponymous motorcycle.

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As noted above, this one stands out because it has a seat for a passenger. Otherwise, the Lawrence borrows a lot of the tech from the SS100. That includes the titanium frame pieces, the Fior-type forks, and the same 102 HP engine. Both motorcycles even have the same wheelbase of 60.2 inches. Like the SS100, the Lawrence’s adjustable front suspension has 4.7 inches of travel while an adjustable monoshock in the rear travels 5.1 inches. Even the weight is exactly the same at 410 pounds.

What’s different here is the carbon fiber tank, which is shaped to look like a Brough Superior of old. The seat also sits 31.8 inches from the ground compared to the SS100’s ever so slightly different seat height of 32.2 inches. Weirdly, another change here is that the Lawrence has two 320mm front rotors as compared to the four 230mm front rotors of the SS100.

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Once again, you can get your Lawrence with its carbon fiber body in different colors. There’s also the sweet Brough Superior Nefud, which is a Lawrence with knobby tires, a scrambler-style exhaust, and a skid plate. I’m not sure anyone will be taking one of these on an adventure, but I love the look. Once again, we don’t have any data on top speed or production numbers.

The Aston Martin Collab

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Finally, we get to Brough Superior’s wild special edition motorcycle, the AMB 001 Pro. In 2022, Aston Martin and Brough Superior collaborated to create a track-only superbike inspired by the looks of the Valkyrie AMR Pro track car. Brough Superior is also bringing that one to America and has this to say about it:

Offered in 2 PRO specifications, the successor to the sold-out AMB 001 was inspired by Aston Martin’s no rules track hyper car Valkyrie AMR Pro. Like its inspiration, AMB 001 PRO takes track performance to the extreme, offering a 25% power increase on its predecessor, with its 225 HP producing a power to weight ratio of 1.28 hp/kg, similar to that of a Formula One® car.

AMB 001 Pro is offered in two spectacular racing liveries; Aston Martin Verdant Jade, with Photon Lime accents creates a bold modern look whilst Aston Martin Racing Green paired with Lime Essence pays a nod to Aston Martin’s winning bloodline on the track. Both specifications feature satin finished carbon fiber bodywork and wheels, with high performance black Cerakote for the engine and suspension.

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The marketing copy goes on to talk about how the bike has an Aston Martin badge that’s thinner than human hair. Neat. Brough Superior says that the frame of this one is CNC-machined aluminum frame and uses the engine as part of its structure. This connects to an aluminum swingarm, also CNC-machined, that pivots inside the engine case. Notably, the Brough Superior track bike has a smaller 57.5-inch wheelbase than the road bikes.

At 396 pounds, it’s also 14 pounds lighter than Brough Superior’s road machines. Some of that low weight is due to the carbon fiber wheels, which would normally be aluminum in other Brough Superior models.

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Also new is the 997cc 88-degree V-twin that Brough Superior says was milled from a solid block of 5000 series aluminum. In the original AMB 001, the turbocharged engine made 180 HP. Now, it’s making 225 HP in the Pro version. The rest of the parts of the AMB 001 Pro read like the parts list for the Brough Superior Lawrence, including the Fior-type forks, the pair of 320mm front disc brakes, and machined aluminum parts. Now, you just get them with a carbon fiber body featuring Aston Martin wings.

Coming Soon, If You Have The Cash

Brough Superior says it’s on a path to opening up global sales. The brand opened up shop in Japan earlier this year and will be spending the summer expanding across America. Prior to this announcement, Brough Superior said it was quietly building a dealership network in America.

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The flagship Brough Superior store is due to open in Malibu, California in May 2024. After that, Brough Superior says to expect stores to open in Florida, Georgia, Illinois, New York, and Texas. The brand says that when these stores open, you’ll be able to place an order for a Brough Superior that’s been homologated for U.S. and Canadian roads, so you shouldn’t have any issues getting plates for it.

Here’s the rough part. Are you sitting down? The SS100 and the Lawrence carry a starting price of $81,075. That’s before you add any options or customization. The track-only AMB 001 Pro will set you back at least $183,895. If you thought Harley-Davidson was expensive, the “Rolls-Royce of motorcycles” laughs at that.

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That said, you’ll very likely be getting a motorcycle befitting of comparison to a Rolls-Royce. Motorcycle journalist Paul D’Orleans, who has owned four Brough Superiors and rode one across America, is one of the few lucky people to have tested a new Brough Superior. He feels the new bikes deliver the kind of quality, performance, and unique experience ol’ George Brough would have approved of.

It’s unlikely I’ll ever find a way to squeeze a six-figure motorcycle in my fleet, but I’d love to swing a leg over one of these time machines. At the very least, it’s awesome to see a project like this even reach reality.

(Images: Brough Superior, unless otherwise noted.)

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Guillaume Maurice
Guillaume Maurice
16 days ago

Here’s the rough part. Are you sitting down? The SS100 and the Lawrence carry a starting price of $81,075. That’s before you add any options or customization.

That’s a French and British Luxury mix for you… the cost doesn’t matter, what matters is the fact that you have two of the best countries in the world when it comes to luxury joined together to bring you a dream come true;

( remember Concorde… It’s in that same insane category of French and English Blend )

John Patson
John Patson
16 days ago

You missed the strongest TE Lawrence bit — he was riding one down narrow Dorset roads when he was killed.
Going a bit too fast, came over a blind rise and saw two boys on bicycles in the middle of the road, swerved to miss them and lost it. Died six days later. Only 46.
And he owned eight Broughs in all…

Joshua Christian
Joshua Christian
12 days ago
Reply to  John Patson

He was killed by the 7th, in fact. He’d ordered and paid for the 8th (so he already technically owned it), but it only actually got delivered after he died.

Thomas Metcalf
Thomas Metcalf
16 days ago

I remember reading about old Brough Superiors in a motorcycle magazine years ago. When they called themselves the Rolls Royce of motorcycles, a R.R. executive was dispatched to tell them to Cease and Desist but was thoroughly impressed with the workers assembling the bikes with white gloves and then testing every one at speed that he convinced R.R. leadership to allow the comparison.

BolognaBurrito
BolognaBurrito
16 days ago

What’s up with (what appears to be) quad rotors up front?

Scott Ross
Scott Ross
16 days ago

Ill stick with a Janus

Lotsofchops
Lotsofchops
17 days ago

Definitely all interesting bikes (except that Mondial, woof). But I don’t know, I don’t find them desirable. Maybe I’m just telling myself that because they’re about an order of magnitude out of my budget, but darnit I’ll stand by it. Also that AMB 001 might kinda suck on the track without any windscreen. Thank god they’ll never be ridden on one anyway.

Gubbin
Gubbin
17 days ago

Pretty enough, but I don’t get the 88° V angle. If I win the lottery I’m either buying an Egli-Vincent or (if I win big) commissioning a run of Britten V1000s.

Mr. Canoehead
Mr. Canoehead
17 days ago

Wow, those are pricey bikes. They are going to appeal to collectors like Jay Leno rather than riders.

You can get a supernaked like a KTM SuperDuke R for around $20k and it will be better in every measurable way. Remember how much trouble Motus had selling their bikes at $35k?

TOSSABL
TOSSABL
17 days ago

My brain not parsing well. When you say it has four disc brakes, you’re talking about just the front, right?
So, a total of 5 discs, and 3 calipers, correct?

Hot Stuff
Hot Stuff
16 days ago
Reply to  TOSSABL

It looks like they have some kind of coaxial setup on the front, with two rotors served by one caliper. Here is a brake system from Beringer using that design:

https://www.bellissimoto.com/parts/braking-1/calipers/Beringer-Aerotec-4D-Dual-Disc-Brake-single

Mike Harrell
Mike Harrell
17 days ago

I think I’ll just stick with my HMV Freeway, a.k.a. the Amante GT of motorcycles.

Boxing Pistons
Boxing Pistons
17 days ago

Very cool. The Lawrence is my favorite. The exhaust routing looks cool, but my calves are burning just looking at them. I already have twin scars on my legs from burning them on my old XS650 and would like to avoid doing that again…

Last edited 17 days ago by Boxing Pistons
David Puckett
David Puckett
16 days ago
Reply to  Boxing Pistons

The last photo of the black and “gold” Lawrence has the pipes tucked down under, given that every bike is custom, you can have it your way.

Spikedlemon
Spikedlemon
17 days ago

Just to re-set everyone’s mental thought on how to pronounce Brough: it’s “Bruff”

Ecsta C3PO
Ecsta C3PO
16 days ago
Reply to  Spikedlemon

Since I will never own one, or even be in the same room as an owner of one, it shall remain “Broo” in my mind.

A. Barth
A. Barth
17 days ago

For those who may not be familiar, Brough is pronounced ‘bruff’ – not ‘bro’ or ‘brow’.

The SS100 looks different – but very appealing – with the cigarette-style mufflers, and The Lawrence is fantastic!

Fun fact: Paul D’Orleans has published some great books on cafe racer history. They’re worth a read if you’re interested in that sort of thing.

Vetatur Fumare
Vetatur Fumare
17 days ago
Reply to  A. Barth

That was my question. English is a very silly language.

A. Barth
A. Barth
16 days ago
Reply to  Vetatur Fumare

It certainly is.

Spikedlemon
Spikedlemon
17 days ago
Reply to  A. Barth

Didn’t even see your identical note on Bruff. Matches with Tough.

‘ough’ is the worst.
Enough, through, plough (plow for Americans), dough, cough…

Freelivin1327
Freelivin1327
16 days ago
Reply to  A. Barth

Just wait til that VTEC kicks in, bro!

Duane Cannon
Duane Cannon
17 days ago

Cool Brough, bro. All of them.

No Kids, Just Bikes
No Kids, Just Bikes
17 days ago

Anyone have any insight as to how four smallish solid rotors acting as two is better than two normal sized vented rotors? The calipers seem pretty conventional.

Seems to add complexity and perhaps unsprung weight. Probably doesn’t matter as these are all likely going to be for looking and not for riding. Shrugs.

The history is neat, though.

LastStandard
LastStandard
17 days ago

You stuff another brake pad in between the rotors, and bam! Double the swept area. If I remember right, Shimano messed around with the concept years ago for downhill mountain bike racing. The brakes were actually way too strong like that so it just didn’t make sense for the bike world.

But yeah, I’d say this is a style choice over performance.

Dangerous_Daveo
Dangerous_Daveo
16 days ago

Bikes don’t really run vented rotors anyway.

I think it’s more aesthetic in this case, as it’s closer in size to the originals drums, and shows off the wheels better.

No Kids, Just Bikes
No Kids, Just Bikes
16 days ago

Almost all my motorcycles’ rotors are drilled or slotted. That’s what I meant by ‘vented’. The lone bike with solid rotors is a late shovelhead, and performance is not its strong suit. Neither is running most of the time.

Mechjaz
Mechjaz
17 days ago

I bet if I just scrub the F900 real good, real good, I too could have polished steel tank.

God, that SS100 is gorgeous. Unfortunately, even if I had $81k in splashy cash, I’d turn it into a manual Blackwing ASAP.

Thanks Mercedes. I always learn so much from your deeply researched articles!

Pierre Drescher
Pierre Drescher
17 days ago

Someone should tell them that they wrote “Rear Break” on the SS100 description page on their website.

Mechjaz
Mechjaz
17 days ago

Hey, if it ain’t Brough, don’t fix it.

BolognaBurrito
BolognaBurrito
17 days ago

I’d say they are more akin to a brand like Spyker, Weisman, Panoz, or something like that. Lower volumes, less cache (I’m claiming this since the original brand died, and this is less carrying the torch and more striking out into new territory with a few historical elements), more panache. This is more new money, while I’d say Rolls Royce is more about old money (despite being owned by lots of new money).

Sir Archibald Theodore Edward “Albie” Humberbolt (yes, the Albie doesn’t come from any of his given names) wouldn’t ever think of owning one of these. But he’d own a Rolls Royce.

No Kids, Just Bikes
No Kids, Just Bikes
17 days ago
Reply to  BolognaBurrito

Well said. These scream new-money garage fixtures. The sportbike is kinda compelling, I guess, but the rest just seem over-wrought. When I think Rolls I think high-end, hand-crafted, comfortable luxury. I don’t know that there is any motorcycle analogous to that.

BolognaBurrito
BolognaBurrito
17 days ago

Yep. I put these up there Curtiss (formerly Confederate). Gaudy things that will largely sit in new money garages.

For a fraction of the price I’d rather have a Motus (R.I.P.), Bimota, or a number of other offerings. Basically, I tangible engineering and design, not flashy uniqueness for the sake of flashy uniqueness.

No Kids, Just Bikes
No Kids, Just Bikes
17 days ago
Reply to  BolognaBurrito

There are plenty of flavors of motorcycle to suit any taste…I too am attracted more to neat, functional engineering. Or a well-done old-school chop.

When I lived in El Lay there was a Motus at the Rock Store one time. That was a rad-sounding machine! Shame the company didn’t last.

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