Burt Munro encapsulated everything there is about hot rodding and land speed racing, even if it was while racing with two wheels missing. “If a thing’s worth doing, it’s worth finishing if you can,” said Munro. “Lots of people ask me, ‘When are you gonna give up?’ I said I’m not gonna give up until I get a good run!” Munro still holds the AMA Land Speed Record in Class S.A. 1000 record of 184.087, set with his famous, hand-built 953cc 1920 Indian motorcycle streamliner, which some land speed racers will still tell you is cursed.
Munro spent his days selling and repairing motorcycles, and spent his nights building them for land speed racing. He would make connecting rods out of airplane props and tractor axles, build micrometers from wheel spokes, cast his own pistons in tin cans, and worked tirelessly to bring his Indian to Bonneville — even reportedly buying the 1960 Chevy wagon you see him driving in Offerings to the God of Speed in Los Angeles for a whole $90 so that he could tow his Indian to Bonneville. At the time, there wasn’t a speed parts industry like we have today, and Munro, living in New Zealand, would’ve been cut off from most of the world anyhow as shipping would’ve been prohibitively expensive for the modest mechanic, so he always had to be crafty.
The World’s Fastest Indian was written and directed by Australian Roger Donaldson, who also created this 1971 TV documentary. Burt Munro: Offerings to the God of Speed is one of the last looks into Munro’s life, and it really chisels into the character of Munro. Relentless optimism, a wealth of creativity, and never being short of confidence are the tenants of Munro, along with his famous offerings to the God of Speed — a shelf of cracked pistons, splintered connecting rods, and pizza-cut flywheels.
Munro would go on to be inducted in the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 2006for those sacrifices, too.
Of course, the real secret about Munro’s record at Bonneville is that 184.087 mph was not the original record, as the original 183.59 mph two-run average was miscalculated in 1967, and Munro was reissued a new AMA Land Speed Record in Class S.A. 1000 record certificate in 2014 — 36 years after his death in 1978!