George Brough's prototype Brough Superior SS 100 Alpine Grand Sport is to be offered by New York fine arts auction house Phillips de Pury & Company on December 15.
From the collection of Michael FitzSimons, this iconic Alpine Grand Sport is estimated to bring between $600,000-$700,000 - which, if achieved, would be a World Record price for a motorcycle at auction.
Brough won the 8-day 1925 Austrian Speed Trials on this very machine, which was prepared by Chief Engineer Harold "Oily" Karslake specifically for high-speed competition in the Austrian Alps.
Brough's Alpine Grand Sport was built with large Rexine panniers for overnight gear, two tool bags below them, and tuned for competition at altitude. It features a Bonnkksen time and trip speedometer, and is longer and lower than the standard SS 100.
This bike is extensively documented. Provenance includes a letter from Karslake; Brough's International Travelling Pass issued for the Austrian Trials by the Royal Automobile Club, London, June 8, 1925; and a letter of certification from Mike Leatherdale, Machine Registrar, Brough Superior Club, UK.
Blue chip collectible prices in both the art and automobile world have shown no sign of softening, even in the uncertain current economic climate
There are also multiple period photographs of George Brough on the bike, including at speed in the Austrian trials. His success led to the Austrian market becoming the second largest for Brough Superior from 1924 until production ceased in 1940.
Brough kept this Alpine Grand Sport as his own bike for a year. He won the London-to-Edinburgh Trial in May 1925, then lent it to JP "Neon" Castley who won the London-to-Exeter Trial in December.
Brough won the Victory Cup Trial himself on the same bike in March 1926, then sold it to Prince R. Chagla in India. A further owner was Major S. Balakrishnan, also in India. Today, seller Michael FitzSimons has owned this Alpine Grand Sport for 25 years.
For all its performance, one of the biggest reasons the SS 100 is essential to the serious collector is its most ardent contemporary enthusiast and spokesman, none other than TE Lawrence, better known as "Lawrence of Arabia" after his World War I exploits.
Perhaps the most romantic British figure of the 20th century, Lawrence owned seven Brough Superiors, calling them all "Boanerges" (Sons of Thunder) and estimated he had ridden 300,000 miles. Lawrence was awaiting delivery of his eighth Brough Superior - an SS 100 Alpine Grand Sport - when he was killed in a crash in 1935.
At present the world record for a motorcycle sale at auction is held by a 1915 Cyclone board track racer, which sold at MidAmerica's Monterey, California, Auction in 2008 for $551,000. However, blue chip collectible prices in both the art and automobile world have shown no sign of softening, even in the uncertain current economic climate.
Records have fallen regularly in the past year; earlier this November a Chinese vase was sold by Bainbridge in London for a staggering $83 million. Perhaps the world of fine art is broadening to include industrial art as well.
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