The last ten Brough Superior SS100 motorcycles were made in 1940, the last of a very special breed. That was until 2008, when the grandson of a British bespoke tailor, Mark Upham, acquired and consolidated the Brough brands. Perhaps Upham’s grandfather and George Brough had sold complementary outfits to the same customers – the ancestors of those on the Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride, and all the costumed runners today.
Upham resurrected Brough in his original spirit, with a first bespoke recreation of the racing version of the Superior SS100 Pendine, dubbed the SS101 and available to order for $ 250,000. He then sold the rights to Brough to the motorcycles to Thierry Henriette, who installed BSM (Brough Superior Motorcycles) at its new headquarters in Toulouse, France, a home of aerospace engineering companies.
Soon after came the SS100 for a new generation, the 2017 Brough Superior SS100, and now, in 2021, the Lawrence. Named in honor of Lawrence of Arabia, a man who became legend thanks to his exploits of derring-do in the deserts of the Middle East during the Great War.
He may have been the original clad racer, riding his Brough motorcycles in military gear. He named one of them, a Superior SS100, after the Aramaic “Son of thunder” – Boanerges – and commented on one ride among many others: “Boanerges and I took the road to Newark for the last hour of the day. He walks around at forty-five and, roaring his best, passes a hundred. A wayward motorcycle with a touch of blood in it is better than all the riding animals on earth.
George Brough made his first ‘Superior’ motorcycle in 1919 and began offering them as a bespoke, handmade alternative to everything else on the market in 1920. Through clever marketing and rigorous quality control, he found the same audiences as Rolls-Royce, Purdey, and Savile Row costume makers, and quickly became the “king of cool” of two-wheeled speed machines. By the time the SS100 debuted in 1925, it broke a wave of world records, including hitting 123 mph.
When the blitzkrieg of a new world war broke out in the late 1930s, Brough and his then competitor Phil Vincent were forced to cease production and devote their resources to the Allied war effort; Brough never restarted. But Brough’s has always been a combination of bespoke pieces and keeping the best of anything off-the-shelf, with quality controlled to perfection.
It’s no surprise, then, that the $ 80,000 Lawrence continues this philosophy using a 102 hp engine designed by Boxer Design and assembled by BSM with the help of Akira Engineering, mounted in a custom made titanium chassis. handmade and coated with carbon fiber, and floating on aluminum suspension. Stopping power is provided by French braking specialist Béringer, with dual disc brakes up front and a single disc brake at the rear.
Aesthetically inspired by a curved Bedouin knife, does Lawrence conjure up the sparkles of Peter O’Toole (who played Lawrence on the big screen in 1962) at the top of a hill in ceremonial costume flat on the gas? Maybe yes. Until we have a chance to swing a leg at its namesake model, we can’t really say if TE Lawrence would have loved it. Maybe it depended on whether his goal was a solo hit on the horizon or a date for tea for two.
Anyway, we wonder what would have happened almost 100 years ago if the great Boanerges had equipped the brakes of these new models.