W E Brough’s machines had been innovative and well-engineered, and his son’s continued the family tradition but with an added ingredient – style. J A Prestwich of London and Motosacoche of Geneva supplied v-twin engines for the MkI and MkII Brough Superiors respectively, though within a few years all models would be JAP-powered. Gearboxes were sourced from Sturmey-Archer and (initially) forks from Montgomery, while frame and accessory manufacture was contracted out to specialists in the British motorcycle industry’s Midlands heartland.
With the SS80 and SS100 well established by the mid-1920s, it was decided to add a smaller and cheaper alternative to these two 1-litre models to the range. JAP was already producing a 674cc sidevalve v-twin engine and this unit, redesigned to accommodate overhead valves, went into Brough’s new ‘Overhead 680’. First shown to the public at the Olympia Motorcycle Show in 1926, the ‘Miniature SS100’, as George Brough called it, entered production for 1927. The new middleweight Brough was an instant success and for the 1930 season was joined by a version to higher specification. First seen at the 1929 Motorcycle Show, the newcomer was dubbed ‘Black Alpine 680’, a reference to the lavishly equipped SS100 Alpine Grand Sports and the fact that the newcomer boasted a distinctive all-black eggshell finish. Principal mechanical difference from the standard Overhead 680 was the adoption of the patented Bentley & Draper sprung frame, first seen in the SS100 Alpine Grand Sports.
The history of this wonderfully patinated Black Alpine is known from new. It was supplied in August 1930 by Laytons of Oxford to one D R Venables. There are two 1930 photographs on file showing it parked on the Iffley Road in Oxford close to the owner’s home. The following summer Mr Venables rode the Brough on an extended continental tour accompanied by his friend Dennis Welch, who used his Morgan three-wheeler for the trip. They visited Switzerland and the south of France. Two photos of the Brough and the Morgan on this trip are included in the sale, as is the Brough’s 1931 ‘International Certificate for Motor Vehicles’, effectively a passport for the machine, which was a requirement if you travelled abroad at that time.
In late 1931 the Black Alpine was sold to Chris Arthurs, a skilled carpenter living in Reading, who kept the Brough for the next 40 years. He fitted a sidecar and the very distinctive wheel discs, and used the combination for work and family holidays. His shop-fitting activities provided the materials for a number of modifications; the wooden seat base and its upholstery came from the Palace Theatre, Reading, and he also fitted the wooden number plates that are still present. The handlebars were modified to suit the sidecar, and during the later war years Chris Arthurs rode the outfit far and wide repairing Mosquito aircraft.
The immediately preceding (third) owner had known Chris for a long time, and had previously asked for first refusal if he ever decided to part with the Brough. Chris, by now in his 80s, finally offered him the machine in 1971. The purchaser had a young family and was unable to afford the asking price of £200, but was allowed to pay the balance off at a rate of £5 per month! The receipted payment schedule comes with the machine. The Brough was then used for several years until a con-rod broke (in 1976). Fifteen years passed before the machine was back on the road, and it was then used regularly until offered for sale at Bonhams’ Stafford auction in April 2015 (Lot 292), when it was purchased by the current vendor. Since its acquisition ‘JO 1134’ has been fully serviced by BSK SpeedWorks Ltd; various oil pipes have been replaced and a new battery and rear tyre fitted (bill on file), and the Brough is now fully useable again.
In 1996 ‘JO 1134’ starred in ‘The Big Breakfast’ on Channel 4 with Wallace & Grommit. Around 2001 the engine was rebuilt by marque specialist Dave Clark, including the approved strengthening modification with bolt-through cylinder barrels. At the 2014 Banbury Run ‘JO 1134’ won the prize for the best Brough Superior, and was the only Brough to be ridden to a Gold Award. In his notebook the then owner recorded ‘…. engine runs like dream – such power……’ It should be noted that the original inverted front brake lever now operates the auxiliary oil pump, while an additional period-correct brake lever (which matches the clutch lever) operates the brake.
This is a matching-numbers machine – frame, engine, and gearbox – and comes with a large history file, close inspection of which is recommended. The file contains various photographs; a Brough Superior Club copy Works Record Card; contemporary magazine reports of the new Black Alpine; a separate notebook recording work on the machine over many years; a letter from George Brough to Chris Arthurs dated 13th September 1937 (the signature may be by rubber stamp); an article written for the Brough Superior Club newsletter in September 2012; a road test of the Brough by ‘Motorcycle Sport and Leisure’ (September 1996); a photocopy of a 2-page chapter about the machine from Titch Allen’s Brough book ‘Legends in their Lifetime’; two continuation logbooks; a V5C and earlier V5 registration document; an original Brough Superior instruction book; a quantity of MoT certificates (the earliest dated November 1972): and 22 old tax discs.
Report by bonhams.com