Brough buff

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Sir,

Come on M.L. have you been really fair to George Brough in your article about his cars and bikes? You say he was not the engineer he was “usually described as” but he never claimed to be an engineer . . . a salesman, a publicity man, yes, a showman as you rightly deduce, but never an engineer. The ads in which he carefully avoided reference to the humble (Hudson) origin of his cars were no more or even as devious as AR in publicity for their Honda based cars!

It’s not fair to belittle George’s sprint performances by suggesting he was a professional among amateurs with a bigger engine than most. He was shooting for FTD against real pro’s like Freddie Dixon, Bert le Vack and I. P. Riddoch who had works engines just as big. As for your bit about local lads beginning to mutter after being blown off, you’ve just made that up . . . I can tell you that in those days the “local lads” worshipped the ground G.B. rode on . . . and hoped he would beat Dixon and le Vack. I like your assessment of the distinctive qualities of a BS bike as style, poor brakes, large engines and excellent stability but cannot agree that they were not thoroughbred sports models.

Surely the SS100, the first ever 100 mph roadster to be sold to the public which in amateur and professional hands won just about every title it was eligible for plus World fastest and International trials honours, rates as a thoroughbred.

Much of what you have read has been culled from articles I wrote many years ago and I will add a few comments. The story about the mystery emissary from RollsRoyce giving him permission to use their name after seeing BS bikes being assembled by men in white gloves was, I am sure, a typical G.B. fantasy. He knew reporters and loved a good story and always made sure they got one. There had been many legends in the past so I asked him straight out for what you might call the authorised version. It was a good story, a typically G.B. story but I didn’t really believe it. I mean to say can you imagine RR sending a mystery man to see a “two bit” bike maker? They would have sent a solicitor’s letter.

But I wrote it just the way he said it because I think he had come to believe it. Later I asked Ike Webb his faithful mechanic, Man Friday and finally Works Manager about it. After a lifetime of covering for George, fending off awkward customers, buttering up important ones, and providing the after sales service that really made the Brough Superior superior, Ike was very diplomatic. He never ever let George down but he was a very honest man and never in our long acquaintance told a lie. What he said was “I never saw anyone from Rolls-Royce and anyway we never had any white gloves”.

There’s no mystery about the reason G.B. went into cars . . . his old pals who had been his best customers for bikes had got to the age when they were buying cars instead and he could see his super bike market dwindling.

I don’t know about George carrying dusters in his car to give it a spruce up before arrival . . . unless he had someone with him to do the dusting, but right to the end he always carried his specially made lopsided cap and a pair of goggles in case anyone wanted to photograph him on a bike . . . a BS of course.

His favourite car aside from the 8-cylinder BS which he kept for publicity purposes, was a Jaguar and when he took delivery of the first one he did his own quality check and sent Bill Lyons a list of the things he had found wanting. Lyons silenced him smartly by sending a list of the things he had found wrong with the first Brough Superior bike he had bought around 1925!

They don’t make bikes or cars like Brough Superiors or men like George Brough any more. lbstock, Leics C. E. “TITCH” ALLEN

[We must all be grateful to you for nailing the Rolls-Royce story once and for all but I still cannot accept that the word “thoroughbred” can be applied to an assemblage of proprietary parts even if the resulting machine had all the attributes one would normally associate with the word “thoroughbred”. This problem also applies to some cars, such as the Arnolt-Bristol. Can any reader suggest an acceptable term ? — M. L.]

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