Artist switches into high speed mode

23:00, Jul 06 2014
Brett Harman
‘HOLIDAY' PLAN: Brett Harman is going to the US soon to attempt a world speed record on a motorbike. Photographed with a Moto Guzzi bike, similar to the one he will use in the USA.

A Wairarapa artist is heading to Utah for a shot at being the world's fastest former Weta model-maker.

Brett Harman, of Carterton, who once worked on special effects for The Lord of the Rings, is flying to the Bonneville salt flats in the United States early next month for a tilt at a motorcycle world land speed record.

The attempt at the minor-category record, on a five-speed Aermacchi from about 1972, is Harman's idea of a holiday.

He can only afford it because wife Lisa's wealthy Texan uncle, Russell Riddell, often flies to work on oil wells in Nigeria and is giving him his air miles, lending him bikes and driving with him for four days from his Houston home to the salt flats.

"I'm a poor artist . . . I can't afford petrol to get to Wellington," Harman said.

"It's like I've won Lotto."


Bonneville's smooth, hard salt flats make it the Mecca of speed record attempts, and was the site of New Zealander Burt Munro's "world's fastest Indian" record.

Among dozens of speed categories is one for 350cc "modified push-rod fuel" motorbikes, with a record of 128.2kmh - set by Riddell in 2012.

Harman said Riddell chose it because it was "the easiest record he could achieve with a bike he could afford". Now Harman will try to take it off him. He'll also have a shot at a tougher class, on a 850cc mid-1980s Moto Guzzi Mark V, but says he won't get near that record - around 225kmh.

Harman is not bothered that, if he gets a record, it will be a fairly esoteric one. "To turn up there on a motorcycle and see that big expanse of white - I'm just happy to be there, I don't care."

A veteran of 25 years in the film industry, Harman now runs his business, The Metalist, in a Carterton shed, making everything from chandeliers to furniture, mirror frames, gates, signs and even a "steam punk spa cum barbecue".

He sells items through his wife's Harman Handmade shop in Greytown, and takes commissions.

The father of two has carved out a career with his eye for doing things up, winning thousands of dollars worth of prizes in 2005 on TVNZ's My House, My Castle.


The vast Bonneville salt flats near Wendover, on the Nevada-Utah border, are the site of land speed events every summer, when the salt is dry and hard.

Southern California Timing Association's Dry Lake Speed Trials, known as "Speed Week", is for cars, trucks and motorcycles.

Tens of thousands of petrolheads converge on the flats.

Anyone can find a vehicle category they like listed in the association's handbook, buy a machine and enter.

The motorcycle categories start at 50cc and go up to 3001cc+. 

The Dominion Post