Is a $500,000 project motorcycle total insanity?

Crazy things happen at auctions, where prices can reach inexplicable prices in the blink of an eye. Like, say, the half-million or so paid for a 1930 Brough Superior in rough and “loosely assembled” condition that recently traded hands in the UK. Yet that price may not be quite so insane as it sounds.

Brough Superior was created when George Brough grew bored with the slow, uninspired motorcycles his father rode and decided to start building racing and performance motorcycles. He started with the SS80 in 1923; the SS100 followed the next year.  Their names told you exactly what to expect: a super sport motorcycle guaranteed to reach at least 80, or 100, mph.

1930 Brough Superior SS100 serial number
1930 Brough Superior SS100 H and H
1930 Brough Superior SS100 front wheel
1930 Brough Superior SS100 H and H

1930 Brough Superior SS100 parts bins
1930 Brough Superior SS100 H and H

The SS100 models are the belle of the pre-war ball, and a project or parts bike are no less desirable than running machines. Recent results from the Bonhams Stafford sale show basket case Broughs commanding bigger bids than sorted examples, including a non-complete SS100 Sand Racer for $350,168.  

“The motorcycle market is vastly different than the car market, and we see bikes from the ’20s and ’30s commanding some of the highest prices when the car market is faltering for cars of the same era.” Says Hagerty information analyst James Hewitt. “Broughs are arguably one of the most desirable motorcycles, and you will likely have only one opportunity to buy the motorcycle created by, owned by, and raced by George Brough himself.”

Understand that, and you begin to see $500,000-plus as a reasonable. It becomes even more so when you understand this particular motorcycle, a 1930 SS100 that brought twice the pre-auction high estimate, has documented ties to George Brough himself. It has the original log book and an extensive history file tracings its lineage to him. A recent inspection from the technical advisor to the Brough club declared the motorcycle complete, though in need of restoration and assembly.

1930 Brough Superior SS100 left side
1930 Brough Superior SS100 H and H

Hewitt says Brough is to motorcycles as Ferrari is to automobiles. Both companies were founded with the sole intention of building race-winning machines. With that in mind, buying this SS100 is akin to buying Enzo’s personal 250 GTO. It’s hard to go wrong with that kind of provenance.

As to paying so much for a basketcase, restoring a motorcycle tends to cost a whole lot less money than a car. That makes some collectors eager to revive a historic or significant bike, and so even the most tattered of machines can often command higher prices than a preserved original or restored example.

Given all that, it seems paying something on the order of half a million for this SS100 was a good deal for the new owner. Current valuation trends show a #1 condition 1930 SS100 holding at $250,000, but the opportunity to resurrect a motorcycle created, owned, and raced by George Brough is priceless.

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