80 | Burt Munro - Greatest Kiwi of All Time 2023
GKOAT 23
GKOAT 23

80 | Burt Munro - Greatest Kiwi of All Time 2023

Greatest Kiwi Of All Time: No. 80 - Burt Munro (Down 47 from 33 last year)

The Bonneville salt flats.  A 1920 Indian motorcycle.  And one hell of a fast kiwi.

This is the story of Burt Munro, one of Today FM’s Greatest Kiwis of All Time.

Humble, funny, creative… and with a dream to take on the world.  Burt Munro - our own record-breaking motorcycle racer - truly epitomises what it means to be a kiwi.

Coming from good southern stock, Burt was born, raised and would eventually die in Invercargill.  He had a need for speed from an early age, riding his father’s fastest horse across the family farm in record time before becoming interested in the latest mechanical inventions - cars and motorbikes, which would become a lifelong passion.

Munro worked on the building of the Otira Tunnel before becoming a speedway rider, motorcycle salesman and mechanic.  It was in this capacity he discovered the love of his life - a 1920 Indian Scout - the 627th off the production line if you will.

The bike had a top speed of 89 k’s an hour.  Munro wanted more.  Casting parts out of old tins, barrels, pistons and flywheels, Burt would work all night on the Indian before turning up to work having had little or no sleep.

By the time he finished with it the bike was a 950cc triple-chain-drive mean racing machine.  The Bonneville Salt Flats beckoned.

In 1962, Burt Munro headed off to join thousands of other vehicle enthusiasts for Speed Week at the world-famous Bonneville Speedway.  His trek across the USA and his search to set an unlikely land-speed record would be told in the 2005 film, The World’s Fastest Indian.

And it was there, on the salt flats of Utah, Burt lined up his 42-year-old Indian against some of the quickest machines and best riders on the planet.  

Two more world records would follow in 1966 and 1967.  The Burt Munro legend was born.

Inventor.  Icon.  Speed demon.  Burt Munro died in 1977.  He is buried in Invercargill with his parents and brother and the World Famous Indian, remains on display at E. Hays and Sons, an Invercargill hardware store.  Definitely the fastest kiwi, now one of the Greatest Kiwis of All Time.