The world would be a sad place without crazy people riding bullet shaped bikes
Sometimes you set some goals so high that people around might consider you crazy. Sound familiar to you? Well, this was also the story of Herbert James "Burt" Munro.
Burt was born in 1899 in Invercargill, New Zealand and grew up on a farm in Edendale. His interest in speed took roots at an early age. He was riding the family's fastest horse across the fields nearby the farm, despite his father disapproving. Life at the farm was mainly composed of daily routines and the arrival of motorized vehicles time to time was a rare source of excitement for him. Later, when he grew up the First World War was engulfing continents, and he intended to go to war simply to have a chance to escape the routine and see the world, but he didn't! Burt stayed on the farm until the end of World War I, when his old man sold the farm.
After this, he started to chase his passion for motorized vehicles and became a motorcycle salesman and a mechanic. He started racing motorcycles and rose to the top of the New Zealand motorcycle scene.
Burt Munro's motorcycle was a 1920 600cc Indian Scout. This bike somehow fuelled Burt Munro's wish of setting a world land speed record. This motorcycle was one of the early models, being the 627th Scout to leave the American factory. In stock shape, this motorcycle had an original top speed of only 55mph (89 km/h). But this was not enough, and soon, Burt decided to start modifying his Indian Scout.
To accomplish this, he had to overcome two major obstacles. Because his financial condition was modest, he would often create parts and tools himself instead of buying or having them professionally built.
For example, he was home casting and forging the pistons, cylinder barrels, flywheels using the most common tools and a lot of ingenuity. The lack of finances didn't stop him from following his dream of high speed.
Along with the financial problems, he was also lacking the time to work on his motorcycle as he had a full-time job as a salesman. He sacrificed nights of sleep to please the Gods of Speed. To modify his motorcycles, he often would work overnights on his bike then he would go to his regular job in the morning.In the final stage, the Indian's displacement was increased by about 350cc (having 950 ccs instead of the factory 600 ccs) and was driven by a triple chain drive system.
In 1967, during his best speed race in the Speed Week event, Burt pushed the limits of the Indian on the natural speed track of Bonneville Salt Flats in the northwest of Utah, USA, to a clocked speed of 183.586 mph (295.453 km/h). What is more amazing is that the speed record still stands. In 2014, 36 years after Burt's death, his son, John noticed a calculation error made by AMA and reported it. AMA corrected the speed to 184.087 mph (296.119 km/h).
Imagine a 68-year-old crazy guy on a home built rocket shaped motorcycle going more than 184 miles per hour. Only one word could explain this: AMAZING.
Burt traveled to Bonneville ten times, raced nine times and set three speed records: first in 1962, second in 1966 and finally, the last one in 1967.
Unofficially he also qualified at over 200 mph, but the run wasn't official, and so it wasn't taken into account.
Here are some of the most important numbers:
– In 1962, he set an 883cc class record of 178.95 mph (288 km/h) with his engine bored to 850cc
– In 1966, he set a 1000 cc class record of 270.476 km/h (168.07 mph) with his engine bored to 920 cc
– In 1967, his engine was bored out to 950 ccs, and he set an under 1000 cc class record of 295.453 km/h (183.59 mph). To qualify he made a one-way run of 305.89 km/h (190.07 mph), the fastest-ever officially recorded speed on an Indian. The unofficial speed record (officially timed) is 331 km/h (205.67 mph) for a flying mile
– In 2006, Burt Munro was included into the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame.
– In 2005 a biographical film was made, based on the life of Burt Munro. The film is called "The World's Fastest Indian" and is starring Anthony Hopkins…we recommend it! Every petrol head should watch it.