Burt Munro : biography
Herbert James "Burt" Munro (Bert in his youth) (25 March 18996 January 1978) was a New Zealand motorcycle racer, famous for setting an under-1,000 cc world record, at Bonneville, 26 August 1967. This record still stands today. Munro was 68 and was riding a 47-year-old machine when he set his last record.
Working from his home in Invercargill, he worked for 20 years to highly modify the 1920 Indian motorcycle that he had bought that same year. Munro set his first New Zealand speed record in 1938 and later set seven more. He 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.
Munro had four children—John, June, Margaret and Gwen—with his wife Florence Beryl Martyn, whom he married in 1927. They were divorced in 1947.
Having suffered from angina since the late 1950s, Munro suffered a partial stroke in 1977, and was admitted to hospital. He found his co-ordination had diminished. Frustrated, but wanting his motorcycles to remain in Southland, he sold both machines to a local dealer.
Munro died of natural causes on 6 January 1978, aged 78 years.
- In 1962, he set a class record of with his engine bored out to .
- In 1966, he set a class record of with his engine punched out to .
- In 1967, his engine was bored out to and he set an under class record of . To qualify he made a one-way run of , the fastest-ever officially-recorded speed on an Indian. The unofficial speed record (officially timed) is for a flying mile.
- In 2006, he was inducted into the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame.
2013 Indian named "Spirit Of Munro"
In March 2013 Indian Motorcycles made the surprise announcement that they were producing a custom-built streamliner named the "Spirit of Munro". The motorcycle was built to showcase the Thunder Stroke 111 engine to be used in one of the 2014 road models. The company said it was a tribute to Munro's achievements with the Indian Scout, and to all Indians of old.
Bonneville Salt Flats and Speed Week
The Bonneville Salt Flats in northwestern Utah, are known worldwide for their many miles of flat, compacted salt, perfect for testing speed machines. During Speed Week, usually in mid-late August, vehicle enthusiasts from around the world gather at Bonneville.
Munro travelled to Bonneville ten times, the first time for "sightseeing" purposes. In the nine times he raced at Bonneville, Munro set three world records, in 1962, 1966 and 1967. He also once qualified at over , but that was an unofficial run and was not counted.
Following the misspelling of his name in an American motorcycling magazine in 1957, Bert Munro changed his name to Burt.
Munro was born in 1899 in Invercargill. His twin sister died at birth and Munro grew up on a farm in Edendale, east of Invercargill.
Munro's interest in speed began at a young age, riding the family's fastest horse across the farm, despite the complaints of his father. Trips via train to the port at Invercargill were a rare source of excitement, and the arrival of cars, motorcycles and aircraft added to Burt's eagerness to join the world outside of his farm. As Munro's family discouraged his endeavours outside of farm life, he became constantly bored with daily routine, and at the outbreak of World War I, he intended to go to war as soon as he was old enough, for a chance to see the world.Tim Hanna One good run: The legend of Burt Munro, Penguin Books, 2005; ISBN 0143019740
Munro remained on the family farm until the end of WWI, when his father sold the farm. At that time, Munro worked on the Otira Tunnel construction until recalled to work with his father on a newly purchased farm. After this he became a professional speedway rider, but returned home to the family farm at the start of the Great Depression. Finding work as a motorcycle salesman and mechanic, he raced motorcycles and rose to the top of the New Zealand motorcycle scene, racing on Oreti Beach and later in Melbourne, Australia.
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