Saturday, November 20, 2010


The very first Brough Superior SS100 modified for Alpine speed trials in Austria is coming under the hammer at Phillips auction house in New York,  at their 'Design Masters' sale on Dec. 15, 2010.  This machine was modified by Brough Superior chief engineer Harold 'Oily' Karslake in 1925, for George Brough himself to compete in that year's Austrian Trial (see below).  The bike was not greatly modified from standard, essentially being fitted with a lower compression ratio and more comfortable riding position, and was in full touring spec with pannier boxes and Bonniksen speedo.   That George Brough won the speed award in the event is the stuff of legend, and led to replicas of his machines being called the 'Alpine Grand Sports' model.

This is a well-documented motorcycle with an incredible provenance, having also won a Gold Medal in 1925's London to Exeter Trial...besides being George Brough's personal machine for the year.  The reserve for the sale looks to be at the $600,000 mark: if the machine meets reserve, it will be catapulted to the top of the heap for motorcycle sales at auction, and likely start a new wave of top-end motorcycle Art Auctions!  The venue in this case is well chosen; by placing the Brough in context of a 'Design' sale at a major non-motoring auction house, the seller is clearly appealing to a different audience; one with no grease under its fingernails, but who appreciate aesthetic excellence.
(above, FP Dixon, with George Brough)
Auction results for SS100s and other Broughs have bucked any trends towards softening prices, and have remained strong through the recent economic crisis.  It has been said many times that art and collectibles are currently considered a safer investment than the stock market, although prices in the fine arts world have softened for all but the most coveted 'blue chip' concert with motorcycle sales.  If this Phillips auction is successful, it will certainly bring more of the creme de la creme of motorcycling to 'art' auctions, in hopes to attract a better-heeled audience.  The same logic is applied to the inclusion of motorcycles to high-end automotive auctions ('they have more money'), although results on that front have been mixed, and no higher than a standard 'motorcycle auction'.
In any case, this will be interesting...and I'll try to be there!

Many thanks to Phillips de Pury and Co., and Brough Superior Motorcycles for the photos!


David Blasco said...

As usual, you don't just give the news, you tell us why it's happening. Thank you for the analysis. I just happened to notice, in the wonderful pictures, that the headlights have a visor fitted. I'd always assumed that headlight visors were not truly historical artifacts but just modern trinkets fitted to make bikes look "old fashioned." Yet here they are in 1925. I stand corrected.

Grandpa Jimbo said...

Every time I see a photo (or the real thing) a Brough Superior of any model, I immediately am convinced that that is the most beautiful model of all (including all Velos). Once again it's happened. The first picture shows the best of the example. Ferdinand Porsche said once, "Form follows function. For a round wheel we need a round hole" (others have also said this). The Alpine Grand Sports model has this perfect 'form follows function' balance.
And I bet you will be there.

Jim A.

YJH said...

Thank you, Paul : this is a very important moment. This sale is one of the best curated design sale ever done. Each piece is a Masterpiece. The catalogue is a museum book. And the designers included are simply the ones. Seing a machine included marks the start of a new era, where it will finally be accepted that Motorcycles are a very serious part of History. Quoting Jean Prouvé : there is no difference between a piece of furniture and a house"... and the machine in the garage ! Great post Monsieur d'O

Anonymous said...

A lot of eyes will be on this auction...especially at that price.


howie said...

Paul, I must correct you on your identification of the other Austrian Alpine Trial rider. It is F. P. (Gentleman) Dickson who rode Brough Superiors in trials from 1921 until his death in 1930. He was nicknamed 'Gentleman Dickson' to avoid confusion with Freddie Dixon, another competition rider of BS and other machines.
By the way, Dickson's mount, TO 1368, also survives albeit with a different engine.
Keep up the good work.

Anonymous said...

Good morning Paul,

This is just a quick note to inform you that I appreciate your Blog. Also to let you know that I have been bitten by the history bug. I have loveed motorcycles starting at a very early age and am now working to track down old photographs to scan and archive. Hope to include details as well as oral history from some of the people I've been meeting.

Will welcome any advice.

Keep up the good work.

Mark S
Sandy Ut.

Anonymous said...

So much hype for a kit bike! I'd much rather have any day a truly handmade bike, including - most important of all - the engine, like a Crocker. Geez!

The Vintagent said...

Ah, the old 'kit bike' saw...
Let me frame it this way: if you could build a motorcycle 'kit', win every competition you entered, build a reputation for excellence which lasts 85 years, and have your 'kit' considered one of the most beautiful motorcycles ever made, I'd say you deserve to be in a Design auction, eh?
That doesn't mean, of course, that a Crocker shouldn't be in the next this space!

ukbiker said...

I have a great affection for antiques like these. You have a grand admirer here in the UK ! So much so, I believe every word you say...

Justa Gurl said...

Be a grand admirer. Trust that when The Vintagent types,truth flows though his magical fingers. Never EVER believe EVERY word that ANYONE says though.

I've been reading about this one a lot lately. Anxious to see just how much it does go for

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