How the Brough Superior Lawrence Became The Rolls-Royce of Motorcycles
Take a wild ride on this $80,000 superbike.
The final ten Brough Superior SS100 motorcycles were made in 1940, the last of a very special breed. That is until 2008, when the grandson of a British bespoke tailor, Mark Upham, acquired and consolidated the Brough trademarks. Perhaps Upham’s grandfather and George Brough had sold complementary outfits to the same clients—the forebears of those in the Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride, and every suited racer today.
Upham went about resurrecting Brough in its original spirit, with an initial bespoke recreation of the racing version of the Superior SS100 Pendine, dubbed the SS101 and available to order for a cool $250,000. He then sold on the Brough rights for motorcycles to Thierry Henriette, who set up BSM (Brough Superior Motorcycles) at its new headquarters in Toulouse, France, a hotbed of aerospace engineering firms.
Soon thereafter came the SS100 for a new generation, the 2017 Brough Superior SS100—and now, in 2021, the Lawrence. Named for Lawrence of Arabia, a man who became legend through his exploits of derring-do in the deserts of the Middle East during the Great War.
He was, perhaps, the original suited racer, zipping around on his Brough motorcycles in full military regalia. He named one of them, a Superior SS100, after the Aramaic “Son of Thunder”—Boanerges—and commented of one ride among many, “Boanerges and I took the Newark road for the last hour of daylight. He ambles at forty-five and when roaring his utmost, surpasses the hundred. A skittish motor-bike with a touch of blood in it is better than all the riding animals on earth.”
George Brough made his first “Superior” motorcycle in 1919 and began offering them as a bespoke, handmade alternative to everything else on the market in 1920. Through clever marketing and rigorous quality control he found the same audience as Rolls-Royce, Purdey, and Savile Row suit-makers, and quickly ascended to become the “King of Cool” of two-wheeled speed machines. By the time the SS100 made its debut in 1925, it did so cresting a wave of world records, including reaching 123 mph.
When the blitzkrieg of a new World War descended in the late 1930s, Brough and his by-then competitor Phil Vincent were pressed into ceasing production and devoting their resources the Allied war effort; Brough never started back up. But Brough’s were always a combination of bespoke parts and the curation of the finest of everything else available off-the-shelf, quality controlled to the point of perfection.
So it should come as no surprise that the $80,000 Lawrence continues this ethos by using a 102 hp engine designed by Boxer Design and assembled by BSM with the assistance of Akira Engineering, fitted into a hand-built bespoke titanium chassis clothed in carbon fiber, and floating on aluminum suspension. Stopping power is provided by French braking specialist Béringer, with dual-disc brakes up front and a single disc brake at the back.
Aesthetically inspired by a curved Bedouin knife, does the Lawrence conjure up flickers of Peter O’Toole (who played Lawrence on the big screen in 1962) cresting a hill in full regalia flat on the gas? Maybe it does. Until we have a chance to swing a leg over his namesake model, we can’t really say if T.E. Lawrence would have loved it. It may well have depended on whether his goal was a solo blat for the horizon, or a date for tea-for-two.
Either way, we wonder what would have happened almost 100 years ago had the great Boanerges featured the brakes on these new models.