Herbert (Burt) James Munro (25 March 1899–6 January 1978) was a New Zealand motorcycle racer, famous for setting an under-1000cc world record, 183.586mph, at Bonneville, 26 August 1967. This record still stands today. Burt Monro was 67 and was riding a 46-year old machine when he set his last record.
Working from his home in Invercargill, he highly modified the Indian motorcycle, which he had bought in 1920, for over 20 years. Burt set his first New Zealand speed record in 1938, but later set seven more. Burt travelled to compete at the Bonneville Salt Flats, attempting to set world speed records. During his ten visits to the salt flats, he set three speed records, one of which still stands today. His efforts, and success, are the basis of the motion picture The World's Fastest Indian (2005), starring Anthony Hopkins, and an earlier 1971 short documentary film "Burt Munro: Offerings to the God of Speed—both directed by Roger Donaldson.
He had four children—John, June, Margaret and Gwen—with his wife Florence Beryl Martyn, whom he married in 1927, and divorced in the mid 1940s.
He died on 6th January 1978, aged 78, of natural causes.
Burt Munro’s Indian Scout was very early off the production line, being only the 627th Scout to leave the American factory. The bike wasn’t a very fast model, and in original condition, would have been lucky to achieve 60mph. So in 1926, Burt made the decision to start modifying his beloved Indian.
The biggest two challenges for Burt to overcome whilst modifying his bike were his lack of much needed money, and the fact that he worked full time as a motorcycle salesman. He would often work overnight on his bikes (he had a 1936 MSS Velocette as well), then in the morning, he would head off to work, having had no sleep the night before.
Burt began modifying his bike in 1926. Because Burt was a man of modest means, he would often make parts and tools for himself instead of having them professionally built. For example he would cast parts in old tins, make his own barrels, pistons, flywheels, etc. His micrometer (a precision measuring instrument) was an old spoke .
In its final stages, the Indian sat at 950cc, (in its original state it was 600cc), and was driven by a triple chain drive system.
Speed Week, usually in mid-late August, is when vehicle enthusiasts from around the world flock to Bonneville for a week of racing, and to see how fast their machines will really go.
Burt travelled to Bonneville 10 times; the first time being for ‘sightseeing’ purposes. In the 10 times he raced at Bonneville, Burt set three world records, in 1962, 1966 and 1967. He also once qualified at over , but that was an unofficial run, and unfortunately, was not counted.
GLOBALISATION : Kiwi Competitiveness in the Global Economy - Burt Munro; John Wayne from Invercargill ; Roy Stager-Jaques, Mary Hobson and Bob van de Kuilen (aka the NeoManagement Group) discuss the need to identify what strategic core competencies New Zealand has as a nation and how these can translate into finding our niche in the global economy. The good and the bad are more closely aligned than we might think.
Jun 01, 2008; Number 8 wire. The tall poppy is the first to get cut. Punching above our weight. Kiwi ingenuity. Boat, bach and BMW. She'll be...