Saturday, November 20, 2010


The very first Brough Superior SS100 modified for Alpine speed trials in Austria is coming under the hammer at Phillips auction house in New York,  at their 'Design Masters' sale on Dec. 15, 2010.  This machine was modified by Brough Superior chief engineer Harold 'Oily' Karslake in 1925, for George Brough himself to compete in that year's Austrian Trial (see below).  The bike was not greatly modified from standard, essentially being fitted with a lower compression ratio and more comfortable riding position, and was in full touring spec with pannier boxes and Bonniksen speedo.   That George Brough won the speed award in the event is the stuff of legend, and led to replicas of his machines being called the 'Alpine Grand Sports' model.

This is a well-documented motorcycle with an incredible provenance, having also won a Gold Medal in 1925's London to Exeter Trial...besides being George Brough's personal machine for the year.  The reserve for the sale looks to be at the $600,000 mark: if the machine meets reserve, it will be catapulted to the top of the heap for motorcycle sales at auction, and likely start a new wave of top-end motorcycle Art Auctions!  The venue in this case is well chosen; by placing the Brough in context of a 'Design' sale at a major non-motoring auction house, the seller is clearly appealing to a different audience; one with no grease under its fingernails, but who appreciate aesthetic excellence.
(above, FP Dixon, with George Brough)
Auction results for SS100s and other Broughs have bucked any trends towards softening prices, and have remained strong through the recent economic crisis.  It has been said many times that art and collectibles are currently considered a safer investment than the stock market, although prices in the fine arts world have softened for all but the most coveted 'blue chip' concert with motorcycle sales.  If this Phillips auction is successful, it will certainly bring more of the creme de la creme of motorcycling to 'art' auctions, in hopes to attract a better-heeled audience.  The same logic is applied to the inclusion of motorcycles to high-end automotive auctions ('they have more money'), although results on that front have been mixed, and no higher than a standard 'motorcycle auction'.
In any case, this will be interesting...and I'll try to be there!

Many thanks to Phillips de Pury and Co., and Brough Superior Motorcycles for the photos!