Wednesday, August 24, 2011


Mark Upham, ceo of Brough Superior, with Jay Leno and the 'Retro'

An international crew of Brough Superior enthusiasts, supporters, and well-wishers descended upon Los Angeles in August, coalescing at Jay Leno's 'Big Dog Garage', ready for a look at the newly-built Brough Superior 'Retro', a tool made for an attack on a Bonneville speed record.  It all centered around the ambition of Mark Upham, ceo of the newly revived B-S marque, to re-establish the Brough Superior name at Bonneville after an absence of 62 years, and to show the world that his handbuilt 'SS101' models aren't simply toys or show bikes, but machines developed to be ridden.
Leno aboard his Brough Superior 11-50 model, recently restored by the Works.
Jay Leno is well-known for his love of Broughs, and has been photographed for 20 years riding an SS100 to the Rock Store, when not driving one of his other outrageous confections.  Leno is also a generous man with a seriously equipped warehouse - capable of making or refurbishing any part on a car or motorcycle - and offered space for the Brough-Bonneville effort, as a 'staging area' to sort out tuning and development of the 'Retro' racer.  Thus, the Brough technical crew (and plenty of other interested parties) arrived in Burbank for their first look at the motorcycle designed by Alistair Gibson, former Honda F1 chief, around a postwar JAP racing engine, which had a few Bonneville runs already under its belt.
Alistair Gibson tries out the 'Retro' racing crouch...
Upham brought along several other machines, 'standard' SS101 models such as the Pendine and TE Lawrence replica, some sold already to customers, all in LA for a concentrated display at Ralph Lauren's 'Double RL' store on Melrose Ave.  
The Brough Superior 'Pendine' and 'Retro' at Double RL
DRL is Ralph's recently revived sub-brand, which mixes genuine vintage clothing with new, carefully researched and reproduced designs from mostly American sources.  For decades, Ralph Lauren scouts have traversed the USA, looking for cool stuff: clothing yes, but also jewelry, signs, accessories, military gear...all of it sitting in gigantic warehouses in New York.  Many of these pieces have been the inspiration for RL clothing, but Double RL (named after Ralph's ranch in Colorado), goes a step further, and makes outright recreations of designs which should never have left men's closets.  Not just the patterns; with Lauren's massive clout in manufacturing, they've commissioned or simply revived old mills and machinery to bring back long lost fabrics, weaves, and weights of cloth or yarn, with authentic 'period' dyes or distressing.  The mix with Brough Superior makes sense; both are high end, vintage, and expensive.
Brough Superior wallpaper behind their clothes...created specially for the night, from blown up photocopies, stained with tea!
Four Broughs arrived on DRL Melrose for an evening's celebration; call it a début for the expanding Brough Superior collection, call it a branding exercise for Brough and Double RL, call it a bon voyage party celebrating the team's impending foray on the salt, it was all of the above. 
A rare invite!  Double RL does no advertising or press releases, and relies on events and word of mouth to spread word of their brand...
The store's forecourt (left over from its days as an auto repair garage) was filled with Brough Superiors, fashionistas, vintage bikers, and TV stars, mingling happily and increasingly drunkenly as the evening wore on.  'Bikers drink a lot of beer!' was the refrain from the DRL crew...certainly no surprises there.  Highlight of the evening was the Retro's basso bellow, as Gibson happily annoyed the neighbors by revving the 1100cc beast in the warm night air.  It sounded terrific, with a sharp edge to the unsilenced v-twin bark...healthy, strong, and ready for a go on the Salt.
Salt rider Eric Patterson on the Retro
As Los Angeles is the historic ground zero for American speed culture, the differing worlds of the 'fashion', 'entertainment', and the 'vintage bike' contingents mingled easily - one could hardly discern them, unless they arrived on a motorcycle (as Jared Zaugg, Alain de Cadenet, et al certainly did), or had their movements strobed by paparazzi flashes.  An interesting contrast with the previous Double RL/Brough party on the Blvd St Germain last year, where Haute Couture shook hands with Hotrod Kulture, making a glorious noise in the courtyard of Ralph's Paris flagship.

Like a bunch of kids at the circus...
Jay Leno's steam tractor; just a local runabout.

The Double RL staff, always willing lend a hand.
The Retro, revealed.
Spreading out Brough bits in the Big Dog Garage...
Every Brough Superior comes with a handy carry-box!
Regarding the '27 SS100...
Twin Amal Type 26 'track' carbs used on the Pendine, modified with jet needles for smoother running...
Rider Eric Patterson...
The 'Pendine' now has an experimental electric starter...
Retro at Rest
Jay Leno drives his steam tractor around the neighborhood.  Steam power may be relatively quiet, but huge steel wheel with hard rubber treads shake buildings!
The TE Lawrence Replica outside DoubleRL

Jay Leno with Alistair Gibson and the Retro
The Vintagent tries out the Retro...and volunteers to ride it on the salt!
Engine room of the 'Retro'; a postwar, magnesium crankcase 1100cc twin, with two Amal Mk2 carbs, and two BTH magnetos

A Triumph Daytona already lives at DoubleRL Melrose, but is rather overshadowed here...
A 1927 Brough SS100...the oil drips may add value to the clothing!
Alistair Gibson regards the Retro after its first American fire-up, still burning off surface oil...

Mark Upham and his Retro
Upham tries out his first pair of DRL selvedge jeans...
The Brough Superior wallpaper...not available in stores.
The Ace Cafe's Mark and Linda Willsmore, along for the fun of it, co-sponsors of the Bonneville run.
Alain de Cadenet arrived on his Crocker...
...and this fellow arrived on his own Brough!
Tivoli lights and motorcycles on a warm evening...must be LA.
AdC's Crocker engine; America's answer to Brough.
Crockers, actors, papparazzi...
A local vintage bike club makes the scene
Michael Jackson, former Works scrambler and co-owner of NVT, discusses Jeff Decker's Vincent custom
The Pendine certainly catches eyes...
Jared Zaugg, Alain de Cadenet, et al, arrive on wheels
Trying out Decker's minimalist Series 'B' Vincent, with lots of cool details.


GuitarSlinger said...

Ohhhhh Paul !

Now you really made me a happy guy .

Brough Superior's & Steam power !

Only thing that could of made me happier would of been a Vincent or two , but thats being greedy

Hodge said...

The brough is the coolest moto I have seen on these pages yet. I'm in absolute love with it, my tank is very similar!


Anonymous said...

Mmmm, how Jared Zaug and Alain Decadanet do it for me. Boink!

Anonymous said...

...aaahh this was the event and place to be...! Congrats for the effort and the success gentlemen!

Jorge B

Anonymous said...

Great story and pics!


Anonymous said...

What a great read before getting started today!
Seth J.