Lawrence of Arabia
Brough Superior motorcycles were appreciated by a number of celebrities in the 1920s and 30s but the most famous, and most closely associated with the marque, is Colonel T E Lawrence, Lawrence of Arabia. Between 1922 and 1935 he owned seven Broughs, at least four of which were SS100s. A fifth SS100 was never delivered. This war hero and author often visited the Haydn Road works and was well known to the team there. He regularly wrote to George Brough describing his experiences riding Brough Superior motorcycles.
Lawrence called his Broughs ‘Boanerges’, ‘Boa’ for short, a Biblical reference which probably means ‘Sons of Thunder’. They were also individually known as George 1 through to George VII, as a tribute to their maker.
Lawrence adored his Broughs and rode them endlessly. In a letter to George written in 1926 he said ‘Yesterday I completed 100,000 miles since 1922 on five successive Brough Superiors…I thank you for the road pleasure I have got out of them… Your present machines are as reliable and fast as Express Trains and the greatest fun in the world to drive – and I say this after twenty years experience of cycles and cars.’ He went on to say that he often rode 500 miles a day, occasionally 700.
Lawrence, the poet, was passionate about riding: 'It’s usually my satisfaction to purr along gently about 60mph drinking in the air and the general view. I lose detail even at such moderate speeds but gain comprehension. When I open out a little.'
George Bernard Shaw
George Bernard Shaw, Irish playwright, author and Nobel prize winner, was also a Brough Superior enthusiast. And he was a friend of that other famous Brough owner, T E Lawrence. Lawrence assumed the name Shaw when he entered the Royal Tank Corps in 1923. Indeed, it has been contended that Bernard Shaw introduced Brough Superior motorcycles to Lawrence. One of his many well known quotes could be applied to George Brough’s vision of creating the ultimate sporting motorcycle: ‘Imagination is the beginning of creation. You imagine what you desire, you will what you imagine and at last you create what you will’
Some modern celebrities also love Broughs. Former US comedian and talk show host Jay Leno is a Brough Superior collector and has featured two SS100s in his YouTube series Jay Leno’s Garage. Of the SS100 he says there is ‘no more beautiful bike than the SS100 model’. He urges his viewers to imagine what it meant to drive at 100 miles an hour in the 1920s and 1930s. He takes his 1925 SS100, which was converted into a racer and ridden at the Isle of Mann, onto the twenty first century streets of LA. ‘What a fantastic machine it is…I’m not sure I can convey how exciting this thing is’ he says. A corner of his garage is dedicated to Brough, full of memorabilia including a picture of Lawrence and a picture that used to sit in George Brough’s office. Jay also provided support to the Brough Superior team at Bonneville and gave us the use of his garage.