Brough Superior was acknowledged as a superior British brand before World War 2, at a time when Britain was building a lot of outstanding motorcycles. At a time when the British – or English, I suppose – motorcycle industry was at its peak both in innovation and workmanship, Brough’s products were known as “the Rolls Royce of motorcycles” and renowned for their quality. Keep in mind that they were the only machines of any kind that were ever allowed to call themselves “the Rolls Royce” of anything.
George Brough built a number of different models at the Haydn Road works in Nottingham, not least the several attempts at creating a commercially viable four-cylinder machine. The only one of these to reach double figures in production was the Austin-engined model with its twin rear wheels and shaft drive, and just 10 were made. Despite the variety of attempts, however, it was the SS100 that was the only really successful one and it makes up the majority of the 3000 Brough Superiors built.
It was only natural then that when the time came to resurrect the marque, the new owner of the name decided to launch with more-or-less replicas of the SS100. Above all, it was the uniquely shaped saddle tank that identified the new bikes as Brough Superiors.
Not surprisingly, French high-end motorcycle builder Thierry Henriette kept the shape of the tank. It is one of many similarities with the pre-war bikes, which varied quite a bit among themselves anyway. But there are differences, too. Just take a look at the factory in Saint Jean, France. It could hardly be less like the Haydn Road, Nottingham works. While the outside may have changed, however, the inside – the materials and workmanship – are still the samWhy was Brough Superior resurrected in France? Shouldn’t such a quintessentially British motorcycle be made in Britain? Well, the idea came from an Englishman, Mark Upham, who had bought the name. He approached Henriette’s firm Boxer Design to design the new machines, and Henriette financed and then took over the project.
It is quite true that Brough Superior is an excellent choice if you want to build upmarket motorcycles and charge a premium price for them. No other marque, from any country, comes to mind quite as readily. And if you want to build a model that exploits the history of that marque as thoroughly as possible, why would you not choose its arguably most famous rider: Lawrence of Arabia?
Here is where Boxer Design departed from the usual tribute motorcycle model, which is often little more than a paint job, to redesign at least the styling of the ‘Lawrence’. Unlike the rest of the range, this new model might feature most of the mechanical architecture of other new Broughs, but it is not a replica. The Lawrence has unique curves that, according to the factory, “were only possible to be created by using carbon fiber. The frame of the motorcycle is in titanium, and its fork is a Fior type in aluminium.”
Is this a bike that George Brough might have built if he’d had carbon fiber to play with? I think it is safe to say that this is actually a new motorcycle, not an attempt at a replica. Boxer Design can claim to be a real motorcycle manufacturer, not a builder of copies.
Boxer Design goes to some lengths to legitimize the choice of the name. It emphasises Lawrence’s involvement with his Brough Superiors. “Aside from writing, riding his Broughs was (his) only hobby,” it says. “They were so important to him that he used to write about them in letters and in his books. In his book The Mint, Lawrence dedicated an entire chapter (The Road) to the pleasure he had of riding across England to get the best ingredients for a brunch. ‘For months have I been making my evening round a marketing, twice a week, riding a hundred miles for the joy of it and picking up the best food cheapest, over half the country side.’”
It impresses with its swooping lines, and like the rest of the new Brough Superior range, the ‘Lawrence’ is “hand-built” from “the best materials available (titanium, carbon fiber, aluminium)”. The bike also benefits from the strong local aeronautical industry network in which Boxer Design is involved. World-leading space vessels, satellites and aircraft are produced in the same region. You can see the creative styling of the bike in the photos.
Only 188 examples of the Lawrence will be produced. “The number 188 is echoing the birth date of T.E. Lawrence: 1888,” says Thierry Henriette. “The price to own this luxurious motorcycle is 66 000 euros (all taxes Included).” The first of them will be leaving that smart-looking factory very soon, if they haven’t already. It may be too late to start saving.
Editor’s note: Have a read of Zac Kawazacky’s take on the Lawrence here.