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Having owned and ridden bikes for 40 yrs, and with a present collection of pre war British singles, it was always my ambition to own a pre war V-twin.

Richard Johnson's MX80 Pic 01

My list of considerations, included BSA, Royal Enfield & Matchless didn’t include the Brough Superior. Because of the anticipated high purchase price associated with this manufacturer, it was out of my range. However, having looked at some of these superb bikes my mind was set and I had to find a way to buy one.

I owned a Morgan F4 three wheeler which was rarely used and taking up a lot of space in a crowded garage. After a successful sale, cash was available (plus some from the piggy bank) and I could start looking.

I joined the Brough Owners Club and found many like-minded people very willing to offer help and advise.
It was recommended I look for an MX80. This would more likely fit my budget and was a bike with a good reputation as one of the best Broughs made. A member of the Brough Club was very kind to permit me to ride his bike and I was convinced.

A ‘wanted’ ad in the Club Newsletter produced several phone calls ( and higher prices than I expected! ) with one club member offering information concerning another owner who may be willing to sell his bike.
I called, he was, and I arranged to visit and inspect the bike.

The MX80, made in 1939, was complete and in good condition, the owner having bought it with an attached sidecar in 1992. The bike had Druid forks and center stand and a new fuel tank. This was superb and very well made and made a big impression.
It was clear the bike had not been used much by the current owner but he had prepared the bike for me to see and with a new MOT it was ready to ride.

Starting was very difficult and was only achieved by the owner after liberal ‘tickling’ and flooding the carb. With petrol dripping and after much kick starter action, the engine fired up but would stop very easily unless the throttle was held open by a significant amount. More kicking and with a lot of revs,
I could attempt a trial ride. The engine had been rebuilt some years before and looked and sounded in good order and the ride was as good as I had hoped for. I made the mistake of closing the throttle and the engine died.
More flooding, more kicking and it would fire up again. Even with the air slide closed the engine would intermittently spit back indicating very weak mixture but the owner assured me, when hot, it was OK.

I doubted there was any major problem so we agreed on a price and I arranged to collect a week later.

Over all, I was happy, the bike had very little missing and with mostly original equipment including the Amal handlebars and levers, I was well chuffed. Now I owned a Brough Superior. I could look forward to happy hours gradually making improvements, riding and meeting fellow club members.

The difficult starting was easily resolved after dismantling the carb. What was probably a homemade cork gasket had been fitted in the carb between the large jet block housing and the carb body. This gasket had a hole in the center but it had been made too small and was covering the hole supplying fuel to the idle jet. With the hole made bigger, carb reassembled and fitted, the bike started first kick with the air slide closed and normal amount of tickling. It immediately settled down to a steady tick over!
If only all problems were so easily resolved.
I noticed later when looking through a collection of receipts with the bike, the owner had fitted a new needle and needle jet during the week before I went to look. Perhaps a last ditch attempt to improve the bad starting but to no avail. It’s interesting to think the bike may have been like this for a long time and how frustrating this must have been.

Richard Johnson 02

I would like to trace more of the bike’s history but so far I have little to go on. The bike was dispatched from the works in January 1939 and delivered to Thackers, the Brough agents in Birmingham. What is a mystery, is that the bike has a Manchester registration dated around July 1939 so why the change of location and why the 6 month gap?

My Brough is now the pride of my bike collection.

My wife can never understand why I need another bike when, as she puts it, ‘it looks like all the others - they’re all black’ or ‘if you drop dead, what’s this lot worth?’
Are there any wives who do understand??


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