Five Hundred Miles...

A Rogue Wanderer Traveling The River of Life.. Travel, Motorcycles, and Growing Old Against My Will

Sunday, April 30, 2006


Gwen Banquer, 56, of Norco, Louisiana, has owned over three hundred motorcycles in his lifetime; riding, racing, restoring and building so many that he has lost count. “Name just about any motorcycle”, he says “and I’ve probably owned one”

He doesn’t own one today, but he has created and builds to order a modern day version of what he calls “The most awesome motorcycle I ever saw”.

Having restored Harleys and Indians--including a 1906 Camelback single--such as the award winning Crocker overhead convsersion for the Indian Scout 101 and a Yamaha powered Norton, he turned to what he had always wanted: The Brough Superior.

“The Brough is the pinnacle of vintage motorcycles,
but I wanted one that I could ride”, he says. So he built one.

Between 1902 and 1940, George Brough designed, created and built what is considered the “Rolls Royce of Motorcycles”. The fact that he coined the term himself may have contributed to that sobriquet, but he backed it up with the design and performance of these incredibly beautiful machines; including with each delivery a letter testifying to the fact that the motorcycle had been tested and run at over one hundred miles per hour—no mean feat at the time.

Using a variety of V-twin engines, principally Matchless and JAP, electrical components and other modifications, each Brough was almost done to customer specs, creating the first custom-made high quality motorcycles. In fact, there are so many variations of the basic overhead valve SS 100 and side valve SS 80, that it is difficult to trace their genealogy. Brough’s most illustrious customer was T. E. Lawrence, aka “Lawrence of Arabia”, who owned six, and in fact died while riding his SS 100 on May 13, 1935.

Interestingly enough Brough named all of his creations "George" with a numerical designation starting with number 1.

Following that tradition, Gwen designed and built Banquer number 1 in 1998. Starting from scratch, he began with a frame
from Milwaukee Iron, a Harley Davidson EVO 1340 cc motor, Revtech five speed transmission--that he had to convert from belt to chain drive—disc brakes from GMA and Performance Machine front and rear; a Spyke charging system, Dyna ignition, and a Springer front suspension from Paughco. The Springer was standard on the original Broughs, which Brough had in turn copied from the 1926 Harley Davidson JD.

He had to totally fabricate the distinctive Brough tank, the distinctive gas cap T bars and the instantly recognizable exhaust pipes of the Broughs. “The sound was out of this friggin’ world”, he says.

He stayed with the eight-inch Miller headlight, tacked on a Brough tail light that he had hanging on his wall for thirty years, and created the fenders and sheet metal from aftermarket parts that he modified to fit.

“It was amazing how many variances that the original Broughs had”, he says of the challenge of coming up with a singular Brough model design. He stayed with the SS 100 though, which he says “was to me, the pinnacle of vintage motorcycles”.

“I had an impression of what it would be like,” says Eric Engler of Velocity Vintage motorcycles, speaking of Banquer number 2 that he commissioned.
In keeping with the Brough tradition though, he
wanted changes. He went with a Revtech 100 c.i. motor, a luggage rack, and passenger room, eschewing the saddlebags that grace number 1. And Eric was not disappointed. “It was more elegant than I had imagined. It was irresistible”.

Banquer number 3 was commissioned and built for J.F. Gasquet of Bell Chase, Louisiana. The changes were distinctive; a totally chromed out motor, high gloss paint job, gold leaf lettering, and Gwen’s crowning touch, a right side electric hand shift with a left side foot override.

“It’s no Barcalounger, it ain’t a Gold Wing and it ain’t a Super Glide”, he says. "It’s its own thing".
Gwen, his Banquer Superiors and his Crocker will be exhibited at the Legend of the Motorcycle Concourse d'Elegance shows on May 5th.
All photographs courtesy of Gwen Banquer.


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