A visit from a 959.
Take a tour of Jay Leno’s Brough Superior room
Jay Leno is known for having a little bit of everything stashed in the seemingly endless depths of his garage. His weekly show has highlighted a great number of them, but one room of the collection has been left out—until now. Jay decided to take us all on a tour of his motorcycle room in the latest episode of Jay Leno’s Garage on YouTube.
Despite that title, Leno’s motorcycle room isn’t for bikes in general. No, Jay Leno has a room in his garage with the sole purpose of displaying his Brough Superior motorcycles. That may sound absurd, but with a little background on this particular British bike brand, it will all make sense.
Brough Superior created the first superbike. The SS100 model was guaranteed to run 100 mph right out of the factory doors—in 1924. The brand burned bright, but, like many things that did, was also short-lived. Brough survived just 21 years as a motorcycle manufacturer but in that time, from 1919–40, it created luxurious performance motorcycles loved the world ’round.
Jay takes us on a quick tour of the dozen-or-so prewar bikes artfully displayed in the surgically clean room before settling on the one he’ll be taking for a spin. This bike is different from the rest—it sports a sidecar. Since this Model 1150 was originally owned by a police chief, the sidecar makes sense.
That sidecar is special, though. It is a Petrol Tube sidecar built so the hoop which supports the sidecar is also an auxiliary fuel tank. A cap at the leading edge of the hoop can be removed and the tube filled with fuel, after which a small amount of air pressure is added. Should the motorcycle run low on fuel a petcock can be opened which drains the hoop tank to the motorcycle’s carburetor.
The bike itself sports an 1150cc twin-cylinder engine and four-speed, foot-shifted transmission. Hearing Leno run it down the road highlights just how smooth the engine is—and not just smooth for its time, but even compared to today’s bikes. Interestingly, Brough Superior did not produce its own engines. Rather, they were contracted out to various manufacturers over the years who built engines to Brough’s specification.
Brough Superiors are magnificent machines, which explains why they command a premium in the motorcycle market. For those of us not lucky enough to have one of our own, this ride along with Jay will have to suffice. Maybe next time we can scheme a way to get into the sidecar. One can dream…