The Life Story of Bonneville Speedster, Burt Munro,…simply amazing.
So inspirational to gearheads like me.
To really understand “Herbert James Munro“, (aka: Burt Munro) you have to be a true motorcycle gearhead and a lover of the many adventures that come from the great sport of motorcycling. Yes, Burt Munro was nuts about motorcycle mechanics and the amazing things you can do with carburetors, pistons, heads and transmission gearing. His amazing knowledge of 2-wheelers, their motors and their design, allowed him to accomplish things on the speedway at Bonneville that were deemed impossible to us average mortals.
In 50 years of racing, he had some 250 motors blow up. With only basic tools and equipment, he used spectacular mechanical engineering ingenuity to rebuild his motors and do it all over again. Plus, at the age of 63, when most old farts start giving up, he set off to set speed records at the world-famous Bonneville Salt Flats. Truly an inspiration I tell yas. Truly inspirational. Read on!
Burt Munro came out of Invercargill, New Zealand, a friendly place in the southland farming region of New Zealand. This little city, population today estimated at 53,000, is one of the southernmost cities in the world. It was on his family’s nearby farm where a young Burt would first find his passion for machines and motorcycles especially, the 1920 Indian Scout. A motorcycle he would build, rebuild and modify for over 50 years. Like many of us motorcycle enthusiasts, he got his first bike at the young age of 15. He bought his first Indian Scout in 1920 at the age of 21. The rest of the story…is amazing history folks.
Burt Munro: 03/25/1899 – 01/06/1978
Source: Adapted from RD Menzies Photo
The Indian Scout…now, there was a machine in it’s day.
Best I can tell…the Indian Scout came to life in 1920 with a 37 cubic inch engine
registered as a 606 cubic inch. Powerful for the day. The bike was built by the great Indian Motorcycle Company from 1920 to 1949. It was a very popular model. The original top speed of the Scout was 55
mph on its stock flathead motor.
Remarkably, Burt Munro figured out how to get it to a record 185.585 mph in 1967 by adding overhead cams to the original flathead V-Twin, machining his own cylinders from old gas pipes, casting his own pistons and fabricating connecting rods from a tractor axle…so the story goes according to author, Richard Menzies. Genius stuff. Absolutely genius mechanical construction skill.
Original 500-745cc V-Twin 1920 Indian Scout
The guy set a land-speed world record
Burt was inducted into the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 2006. Click here for a summary of his amazing story from the American Motorcycle Association.
The Munro Motor – you can actually hear it.
Jay Leno comments on the original Burt Munro Special 35 Bonneville record setter bike. Click here to hear the engine sound and to see Jay admire this mechanical masterpiece. This is the actual bike that
set the record three times during the 1960’s for bikes under 1,000cc. Click original motor sound to hear it.
Amazing isn’t it?
Not sure who took this photo but I love it. Great pic of Burt and his record-setting #35 Indian machine.
The World’s Fastest Indian – movie excerpts for the fun of it all.
Movie excerpt #1: Timer speaking – 193.728 mph — 194.291 mph – the wobble. 201.851 – a new, amazing record. The crash on the Bonneville Salt Flats….Movie’s Writer and Director is Roger Donaldson (Super Job Roger!). Stars the great actor, Anthony Hopkins (perfectly cast for the role.). Includes Diane Ladd, Iain Rea, Christopher Lawford and many other
talented actors. Click here for the entire cast and crew list. You gotta see this movie to understand what I am talking about. You can buy the movie here.
Movie excerpt #2 here. Racing the “bikies” on the beach in New
Zealand…where he needs a push to get going then beats their buts but crashes
as he nears the last turn.
Movie excerpt #3 – can Burt handle the Munro Special on the Salt? 2nd gear results get him in. Troubled by wobble at around 180 mph.Click here for the official record of Burt Munro’s racing
Tribute Video from the Indian Motorcycle Company.
Now, for some rare pics of the man himself. Meet the real Mr. Burt Munro. One of the “Gods” of
motorcycle machinery and the great sport of motorcycling.
Burt Munro – 1899 – 1978 — RIP Sir. Source: Flickr.com – RD Menzies
For decades, Burt Munro’s speed racing accomplishments were little known outside a small, enthusiastic
group of Bonneville gearheads like me. That all changed when the movie, The World’s Fastest Indian, came to theatres and TV sets.
I want to personally thank film maker, Roger Donaldson and the Munro Family for bringing Mr. Burt Munro’s story to life. It’s one hell of a true story and needs to be told for all generations to enjoy.
Ride Safe Out There,
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