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Lot 302: 1938 Brough Superior SS-80

Sale of Collectors' Motorcycles, Bonhams & Butterfields (12 November 2005)

While equalling a Rolls-Royce for quality of construction and finish, in spirit the Brough Superior was more akin to the sporting 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-powered SS80 (so-called 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 sidevalve-engined (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 tyre burst.

Brough entered the 1930s with an entirely JAP-powered range, and then, after a brief absence, the SS80 re-appeared in 1935 as the SS80 Special, this time with an engine built by Associated Motor Cycles. Similar to that of the Matchless Model X, the 982cc sidevalve v-twin incorporated Brough’s preferred ‘knife-and-fork’ big-end bearing arrangement instead of the side-by-side connecting rods of the Matchless. The SS80 continued to use the AMC engine until production ceased in 1939.

This example is one of 460 Matchless-engined SS80’s built, of which some 300-or-so survive. Its Brough Superior Owners Club record card shows that this machine was supplied new to main dealers E W Burnett & Co of Selsea, Portsmouth. It was sold to another motorcycle dealer in Portsmouth, G E Minnell, on February 3rd 1938 and in 1954 was purchased by one D D MacDonald, of Edinburgh. Its date of last use by him is not known, but the SS80 was being kept in good dry storage when viewed in 1981. After Mr MacDonald’s death the machine passed through the hands of approximately three UK dealers before being sold to the USA circa 1993. First owned there by L Henning, of Florida, it was acquired by Bob Schanz circa 2000. Particularly noteworthy is the unusual combination of plunger-sprung frame and Druid forks, a combination favoured by Burnetts for several of their SS80s. This machine is offered with a Bill of Sale.

Lot Details
Auction Sale of Collectors' Motorcycles
Bonhams & Butterfields, Petersen Museum, Los Angeles, CA
TypeMotorcycle
Lot Number302
Estimate$20000-$25000
Outcome SOLD
Hammer Price$23000
Hammer Price (inc premium)$26450
Year1938
Condition rating
Registration number
Mileage-
Chassis number
Engine number4669
Engine capacity (cc)
Engine - cylinders
Number of doors