Original and unrestored, 1938 Brough Superior SS80

1938 Brough Superior SS80

Brough Superior is beyond reproach when it comes to the benchmark of motorcycle build quality, so much so that it is a well-documented story that after a visit by the bigwigs at Rolls-Royce, they were able to compare the marques in advertising. Yet the “Rolls-Royce of Motorcycles” would be better compared to the far more sporting Bentley. Directed more to the solo rider far more interested in performance, Brough’s marketing turned to the racetrack. In 1922, in the hands of George Brough, a stripped down JAP-powered SS80 became the first sidevalve-engined machine to lap Brooklands at 100mph on its very first outing. “Spit & Polish” as the bike was known, was renamed Old Bill for its racing career, in which it won 51 of the 52 races entered, failing only in the last because of a blown tire.

After a brief absence in the early 1930s, 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.

The motorbike offered

This 1938 Brough Superior SS80, one of 460 built with the Matchless engine and one of approximately 300 known to survive, comes to us from a Southern California amateur restorer of the very highest quality British machines and collecting enthusiast. Its Brough Superior Owners Club record card shows that this machine was supplied new to main dealers E W Burnett & Co of Selsea, Portsmouth and assigned number plate ARV 901 and in rather unusual specification with sprung rear frame and Druid forks, one of only 7 to have left the factory to this design. It was sold in 1939 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. Purchased by our vendor a few years ago, the bike remains in unrestored, original condition,

Under the present ownership, a sympathetic mechanical overhaul included:

  • New tires and tubes
  • New primary and rear chains
  • New wiring loom and 6V battery
  • New rubber parts including footrests, shift, kick and hand grips
  • Rebuilt Magdyno assembly including the generator by Doug Wood
  • Oil tank removed and flushed
  • Gearbox stripped, inspected and reassembled
  • A full engine installation and overhaul by marque expert, Dean Collinson included:
    • Lower end to be found in very condition and within tolerances.
    • Top end and bore was completely worn, new sleeves provided by the Brough Superior Club and pressed by LA Sleeve to standard bore
    • New pistons, rings, valves, guides, springs, keepers and gaskets provided by the Brough Superior Club were installed along with new seats for a completely over-hauled top end.
  • New Amal 276 properly jetted carb installed complete with correct long neck float bowl
  • New plug wires and KLG spark plugs
  • New clutch plates & springs
  • New proper leather toolboxes and frames were provided by the Brough Superior Club
  • Correct large chrome fuel tank has been lined, no leaks.
  • New petcock and correct cloth covered fuel line installed.

The result is a fine running Brough. As easy to start as a 1960s Triumph, the motorbike idles smoothly and runs wonderfully well, transporting you to the 1930s in an instant.