One of the world's true motorcycle treasures, the Brough Superior dubbed 'Old Bill' and raced by George Brough himself, is up for auction

A rare slice of two-wheeled history is due to go under the hammer, with the Brough Superior model dubbed 'Old Bill' by George Brough himself -- the man behind the famed Brough Superior marque -- due to be auctioned in Britain later this year.

Intially dubbed 'Spit & Polish' because of its immaculate presentation, the 1000cc side-valve V-twin was built by Brough Superior in 1922 as a personal bike for company founder George, who promptly took it to the Brooklands circuit in Surrey, UK, and recorded the track's first side-valve victory and first 100mph (160km/h) lap. It wasn't all accolades and champagne, however -- at the same outing the bike also put Brough in hospital, following a front-tyre blowout.

Out of hospital and back to health, George rebuilt the machine using a JAP engine and a new front fork, naming the reborn machine 'Old Bill' after the popular WWI cartoon character penned by Bruce Bairnsfather. George went on to triumph in no less than 51 sprint events on Old Bill over the course of 1922 and 1923, before a fall at Clipstone, Nottinghamshire, saw him hospitalised once more -- and the bike returned to road trim. 

Damaged after a cast-iron bath fell on in during WWII (the bath had fallen through the ceiling above it), the bike remained in storage until the late 1950s, when the founder of Britain's Vintage Motorcycle Club, 'Titch' Allen, acquired it. With the assistance of George Brough and a former Brough Superior works manager, Ike Webb, Allen set about restoring Old Bill to its 1923 specifications.

The bike passed to Allen's son Roger in 1988 and then to Roger's wife Sue in 1992, after Roger's life was claimed in an accident in the classic races at the Isle of Man TT. Since then the bike has resided in the Nottingham Industrial Museum. 

According to George Beale, Principal of the motorcycle department at the British auction house now responsible for the sale of Old Bill, H&H Auctions, the bike represents a truly unique opportunity for any serious motorcycle collector.

“If I could bring any motorcycle in the world to auction, it would probably be this one – the combination of significance and provenance is simply unrivalled in my view," he said.

"Clearly the value has been difficult to estimate; based on our success with an SS100 in 2010, there is no telling what it could make on the day. It is an absolute privilege to be handling the sale of such an automotive icon and we very much look forward to being able to show it to the world’s serious collectors,” he added.

Old Bill will be auctioned by H&H on October 4 at Duxford, near Cambridge (UK), but it will be shown publicly at the International Classic Motorcycle Show at Stafford over April 28-29. The bike has an estimated value of between £250,000 and £270,000 (A$393,000 to A$424,000).

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Published : Friday, 10 August 2012
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