So Zac doesn’t like the new Aston Martin Brough Superior. That’s sacrilege – he should be fired.
Back when I was in charge of the Toronto Star’s automotive section, in the Good Old Days when it was 36-48 pages every Saturday instead of its current six, I had a golden rule for vehicle reviewers: no vehicle was ever “perfect”. It could not be written that the car’s engine was perfectly matched to the transmission, or the seats were the perfect combination of supple leathers, or the motorcycle was the perfect bike for a Sunday morning toot, because the word “perfect” is an absolute. Chances are, the next year, something will be improved or finessed and the vehicle can hardly be made even more perfect.
There was one exception, however, and that was Aston Martin. My rule, in full, read that “Nothing about any vehicle can ever be described as perfect, unless it’s an Aston Martin.”
Somewhere in the archives of the Toronto Star, there’s a photo of me hugging Dr. Ulrich Bez, who was the man who brought the Aston Martin DB7 to market, and there’s another photo of me hugging Henrik Fisker, who designed the DB9. I’ve even hugged Larry Holt, who built the one-off DB10 that was made for the James Bond Spectre movie – the hug was behind closed doors but it still counts. However, I didn’t hug Andy Palmer, the current CEO of Aston Martin, when I met him last year, because some of Aston’s most recent special editions are absurd. They’re track-only cars that cost $1 million and up, and all are sold before they’re even built.
The new partnership with Brough Superior to create the AMB 001 is just more of the same for well-heeled collectors. Brough is a French company that makes a cheeky claim to 100 years of heritage, because George Brough founded his company in 1919 in Nottingham. It only lasted 21 years, though. The 3,000-or-so bikes he built in that time became legendary as expensive and powerful machines; Brough’s most famous fan was Lawrence of Arabia, who died in 1935 riding his SS100 near his home in the U.K.
T.E. Lawrence famously owned eight Brough Superiors, which he described as “a skittish motorcycle with a touch of blood in it.” Every SS100 was guaranteed to reach 100 mph (162 km/h) and cost £180, which at the time was about a year’s wage for the average British worker.
The new Brough Superior company was founded five years ago and makes several very expensive models of motorcycle. The company’s website is notable for its florid translation from French: “A sportswoman with a big heart, she was reborn from her ashes in 2014 in the head of an English enthusiast, but under the fairy fingers of a French magician, Thierry Henriette, and his design office Boxer Design. English by heart and French by rebirth, she has not finished giving us the notes of her success.”
Right. The least expensive new, hand-built Brough Superior SS100 costs around $90,000, which is about two years’ income for the average Canadian worker. That’s not hurt sales one bit: apparently, Brough sold 65 bikes in 2017, its first year of production, and 85 bikes in 2018. This year, it hopes to sell 150 motorcycles, and next year, when the track-only AMB 001 becomes available with a limited edition run of 100, it’s likely that every one will sell before it’s built. Officially, it costs 108,000 euros including tax ($157,000), but in practice, for something as collectible as this, the dealers usually bump the price with additional charges and a prospective buyer must “qualify” to be allowed to purchase one.
You can sniff and scoff and poo-poo all you like, but it’s bikes like these that keep life interesting for all riders. It makes a claimed 180 hp from a twin-turbo V-twin; most important, “AMB 001 has been designed to display a level of elegance that isn’t normally found on racing bikes,” says the press release. “Beauty and power is the order of the day for this track-only racer.”
Would Lawrence of Arabia ride it, if he was around today? Perhaps, because he considered Brough Superiors to be “as fast and reliable as express trains, and the greatest fun in the world.” He could certainly afford it, too. The bike he died on is restored and jointly owned in the U.K by the Imperial War Museum and the National Motor Museum, and is believed to be worth at least $2 million. Lawrence would have money left over for an Aston Martin car, too. Now that’s just perfect.