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Some of the World’s Most Famous Vintage Motorcycles to Go on Auction

Ian Harvey
Photo Credit: Bonhams

In the upcoming months, the city of Cornwall in the United Kingdom will be holding an auction to sell rare vintage motorcycles that were found in a barn. The auctioneers are saying that the motorcycles will bring in hundreds of thousands of pounds.

People in the city believed the whole collection had been destroyed, but eight motorcycles from the collection were found in the village of Bodmin Moor. All eight of the motorcycles are Brough Superiors.

This collection will be shown to the public after the nearly 50 years during which they have been in hiding. The collection has been dubbed “Broughs of Bodmin Moor” and will be held by the Bonhams Sale of Important Collectors’ Motorcycles at Stafford in April.

The 1938 Brough Superior 982cc motocycle Photo Credit: Bonhams

The 1938 Brough Superior 982cc motocycle Photo Credit: Bonhams

One of the spokesmen for the Bonhams Collectors’ Motorcycle Department, Ben Walker, had said this is the greatest collection of motorcycles that has ever been found. He also said that the collection was once thought to be a myth, or else existed but was hidden somewhere in Westcountry. However, no one knew where the bikes were hidden, and not many even knew the collection existed.

1938 Brough Superior 982cc SS100 . Photo  Credit:  Bonhams

1938 Brough Superior 982cc SS100 . Photo Credit: Bonhams

The motorcycles were found in barns and had been there for over 50 years. Some of them were found whole and in great condition, while others were found in parts. Some were found caked in inches of dust. Littered on the barn floors were machine parts and household items that had been left there for decades.

The motorcycles once belonged to Frank Vague, who was a member of the Brough Superior Club. He had started collecting the motorcycles at the beginning of the 1960s.

Photo Credit: Bonhams

Photo Credit: Bonhams

Walker had also commented that this whole collection is the last of the Brough Superiors known. He emphasized that there won’t be another opportunity like this to auction off the vintage motorcycles or to even to own one. He gave a brief history saying that there were only eight four-cylinder machines ever built.

Bonhams West Country motoring specialist, Jonathan Vickers, said that this is a major historical moment for the city and for the auctioneers. They are planning on selling at an international range and this will be the first time these motorcycles will be sold in more than a half-century.

1939 Brough Superior 982cc SS80Photo Credit: Bonhams

1939 Brough Superior 982cc SS80Photo Credit: Bonhams 

The Brough Superior motorcycles are so rare that they are considered the “Rolls-Royce of motorcycles.” They are also a very powerful motorcycle from the pre-war era, which makes them even rarer.   The motorcycles were owned by some of the most famous people, like the playwright George Bernard Shaw and T.E. Lawrence.

One of the highly sought after Brough bikes as it was found in a barn in Bodmin, Devon. See SWNS story SWBROUGH; A treasure trove of motorcycles regarded as the Rolls-Royces of the bike world have been discovered after being left to rot in a barn for 50 YEARS. The eight Brough Superiors have gathered dust and rust for decades until what is being described as one of the greatest motorcycle discoveries of recent times. Brough Superior bikes, built from 1924 until 1940, are the most sought-after two-wheel transport in the world. Just 380 Brough Superiors were built  with TE Lawrence, better known as Lawrence of Arabia, a famous owner. Lawrence died when he crashed his SS in 1935.

Photo Credit: Bonhams

Walker had also mentioned that there is an odd, strong market for the original Brough Superior motorcycles. Even though they are quite rare, there are many people seeking to own one themselves. He said that since a majority of the motorcycles in the collection are able to be restored, he is hoping to one day see one of the buyers actually riding it around.

A little history on the man who made Brough Superior motorcycles famous:

No matter what motorcycle it was, everyone wanted a motorcycle made by George Brough. He had three major groups that ever popular – the veteran which was made until 1914, the vintage which was made until 1930, and the post-vintage. Then finally came the group known as the Brough Superior; worldwide, people wanted one.

Lawrence of Arabia on a Brough Superior he called George V.

Brough had made sure that his dedication to making high-end motorcycles was absolute perfection. He made such a flawless motorcycle that it was accepted by nobility, aristocracy, and even royalty.

Not only were the motorcycles sought worldwide, Brough only made a handful of models, which spiked demand even more.

Brough had decided that after World War I he would make his own design and name the model the Brought Superior. He did not want the world to get it confused with his father’s model, called the flat-twin Brough.  It took almost 30 different machines before he came up with the perfect design, but finally he did unveil his own model. Although it didn’t appear to be very different from other motorcycles, it had a plated saddle tank.

Brough’s father was not impressed at all by the new model. Brough and his father went into the motorcycle business together and they each did their own thing – making different models and designs.


Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for The Vintage News