Monday, December 14, 2015


Rarest of the bunch; the 3-wheel Austin-engine Brough Superior 'BS4', built for sidecar work.  This one is ex-Hubert Chantry, and subject of a famous period press test.  They can be ridden solo, but feel odd!  Note the driveshaft between the rear wheels.  Click here for my Road Test of this model.
I've heard rumors of this collection for years; a fine collection of Brough Superiors, including SS100s and a 1-of-8 Brough/Austin 3-wheeler, sitting outdoors in a south England yard, and slowly rotting away.  The owner refused to consider many offers for individual machines or the whole collection, preferring to watch them slowly return to earth than watch grass grow in their stead.
Looking a bit rough; a 1938 AMX-engined SS100, looking very complete, and completely rusty!
The rumors were recently confirmed by Ben Walker, who had just secured the rights to sell the collection of the late Frank Vague of Cornwall.  When he sent a 'for your eyes' photo of the machines in Vague's yard, I knew this was the collection so long spoken of.   So true, and so very sad!  But, as given the value of all Broughs, there's no doubt every one of them will be brought back to as-new condition in short order, keeping the likes of Dave Clark and other Brough restorers busy for many years to come!
The Brough collection as unearthed after 50 years collecting dirt and rust...
Ben Walker says, “This is one of the greatest motorcycle discoveries of recent times. A lot of mystery surrounds these motorcycles, as very few people knew that they still existed, many believing them to be an urban myth. There was a theory that they still existed somewhere in the West Country, but few knew where. Stored in barns for more than 50 years, the motorcycles were discovered whole, in parts, and some were partially submerged under decades of dust, old machinery parts and household clutter. This is the last known collection of unrestored Brough Superiors; there will not be another opportunity like this. Only eight four-cylinder machines were built, and the example in this collection is the final one to be re-discovered.”
1150s have shot up in value since I rode one successfully on the 2014 Motorcycle Cannonball (with partner Revival Cycles maintaining the machine).  Still, there's probably wiggle room in the price for this 1938 1150 with plunger frame...expect to re-tube the frame and forks for any of these machines, and perhaps make new aluminum castings for certain parts. Obviously all new tinware!
Perhaps the most interesting machine in Vague's collection is the 3-wheel Brough Superior with a modified Austin 7 engine (the 'BS4'), one of 8 produced, and the last one to be positively identified [see my Road Test of a BS4 here!].  George Brough felt the 4-cylinder engine was the ultimate ideal for a motorcycle, and of course Honda proved him right 40 years after he began making one-offs with four pots.  The Austin-Brough was the only 4-cylinder BS produced in series, limited though it was; the others were the in-house sidevalve V-4 and 'Dream' flat fours, and a Motosacoche inline 4 scrapped when Bert LeVack died.  All of these machines still exist.  This newly discovered BS4 was the property of Hubert Chantrey, who rode it solo in the London-Edinburgh Trial, and was famous for riding his BS4 in reverse around Piccadilly Circus!
Bonhams will sell the collection next April 24th, at their Stafford Spring auction.  There are links to each machine below the bikes, if you're looking for price estimates...but I wouldn't put much weight on those!  Not a 'Brough guy'?  Well, there are two HRD-Vincent Series A twins at the same sale, and a Coventry-Eagle Flying 8 with KTOR's going to be one hell of a sale.
One of 3 SS80s on offer; this one a 1939 SS80 with plunger frame option, and Brampton girder forks. 

3 Incomplete Brough Superior 'kits' will keep the less well-heeled collectors happy; long term project anyone?  I've owned a few myself...there's no sin in a basket Brough.  This is a 1926 SS100 with the KTOR motor gone missing.
A 1936 SS80 project, with the AMC MX80 motor.  The Brampton girder forks, while the lowest Brough 'spec', actually give the best braking power of them all!
Last of the baskets; a 1937 SS80, missing its frame.  What man has made...
A 1938 Matchless-engined SS80 with Brough 'petrol tube' sidecar

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jerrykap said...

Looking forward to seeing Ben Walker and yourself at this year's Bonham's & Mecum's Vegas auctions. Howard and I will be there as usual. Probably have a little more time to enjoy ourselves as well. Maybe we can get into some mischief?

BitMonkey said...

Wow. As you said, stunning and tragic all at once. Any idea what theory was behind the twin rear wheels on the 3 wheeler?

The Vintagent said...

The complete Austin 7 unit has a driveshaft in the centerline: rather than engineer a solution, he created a totally unconventional solution, splitting the driveline with two wheels! It created a sensation in 1931, and still does! George pulled a rabbit out of a hat, and created a bike which has never been replicated. It works solo and sidecar, and I've driven it both ways; one of the most remarkable motorcycles ever built. Quiet, smooth as silk, and gorgeous.

Brit said...

Wow! Awesome pictures. Such vintage bikes. Looking at these authentic pictures make me feel as if i was in this time.

Joseph said...


Steve 'Mellie' Corbett said...

Great article in Motorcycle Sport, December '68, that gives a potted history of eight of the ten BS4s built.