Burt Monro was the quintessential mechanical maverick that this site adores.
At 20 years old he bought an Indian Scout that he spent the rest of his life modifying. He broke many speed records and still holds the record for the fastest Indian motorcycle ever. His intrepid efforts were immortalized in the movie "The Fastest Indian" starring Anthony Hopkins .
Burts thirst for speed started as boy riding the fastest horses available on the family farm in New Zealand.
His family were horrified when he spent every penny he had on a brand new Indian Scout motorbike .
He spent most of his spare time altering the design to extract every once of power from his machine .
He cast his own pistons in sand and even shaped aircraft parts to modify his scout. Con rods were carved from propellers.
Burt didn't sleep much (if at all) when he was building his bike up for a record attempt.
After a spell as a speedway rider he settled down to work as a motorcycle salesman.
Burts daughter tells tales of riding in a homemade trailer pulled by the Indian in a 1971 documentary "Offerings to the Gods of Speed"
After Burt broke most of New Zealand's bike speed records he quickly realised that he needed longer tracks. He dreamed of making the pilgrimage to Utah,but with post war austerity hitting pockets hard it took him many years to get over.
With his savings and additional funds from motorcycling friends in New Zealand, Munro finally made the trip to America in 1962 aboard a rusting cargo ship. In order to pay for his ocean crossing, Munro worked as the ship’s cook. Once in the U.S., Munro bought a dilapidated Nash station wagon for $90 in Los Angeles to haul the Munro Special to Bonneville.
Munro arrived at Bonneville ready to make his runs only to be told he was not pre-entered so he wouldn’t be allowed to compete. At home in New Zealand, riders simply showed up, signed up and raced. Munro's American friends, among them Roland Free and Marty Dickerson both of them long-time, well-respected members of the Land Speed Record fraternity, talked officials into letting Munro make his runs. Tech officials looked the other way, ignoring many of Munro's unorthodox means of putting his ancient Indian together.
In his inaugural run at the Salt Flats, Munro set a world record of 288 km/h (178.97 mph) with his engine configured with 850cc of displacement. Munro continued to compete at Bonneville through 1967, when he 68 years old. He survived a crash at top speed in 1967.
In a New Zealand motorcycle magazine, Burt was quoted as saying, "At the Salt in 1967 we were going like a bomb. Then she got the wobbles just over half way through the run. To slow her down I sat up. The wind tore my goggles off and the blast forced my eyeballs back into my head - couldn't see a thing. We were so far off the black line that we missed a steel marker stake by inches. I put her down - a few scratches all round but nothing much else."