Burt Munro breaks world record 36 years after death

WILMA MCCORKINDALE
Last updated 10:51 13/08/2014
Burt Munro and his famous Indian motorcycle on the Bonneville Salt Flats.
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WORLD'S FASTEST INDIAN: Burt Munro and his famous Indian motorcycle on the Bonneville Salt Flats.

Sir Anthony Hopkins stars as New Zealand's Burt Munro at Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah, in the film The World's Fastest Indian.
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MOVIE TRIBUTE: Sir Anthony Hopkins stars as New Zealand's Burt Munro at Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah, in the film The World's Fastest Indian.

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World's Fastest Indian legend Burt Munro would probably have forgiven the American Motorcycle Association for a 1967 stuff-up that robbed him of a record-breaking run.

The association has back-pedalled on times for Munro's 1967 world land-speed runs after the motorcycling legend's son, John, discovered a miscalculation on the certificate issued on the day.

It turns out the legend broke the Class SA 1000 land speed record (previously 183.586 miles per hour or 295.453 kmh) on the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah on his 1920 Indian 953cc Fuel Streamliner on August 26, 1967, achieving an average speed of 184.087mph, John Munro told The Southland Times.

He said the association had issued a new certificate after it recognised and fixed what it said was a mathematical error in calculating speeds achieved by Munro on North (184.710mph) and South (183.463mph) runs on the flats that day.

"It's nice to know Dad's still breaking records 36 years after his death. That doesn't happen very often.

"He would probably have said he had never been good at sums himself. But I'm sure he would have been quite pleased that error was picked up."

Burt Munro's lifetime fascination for the Indian motorcycle brand and his passion for shattering speed records on his motorbike, culminating in his first run as fastest qualifier at Bonneville in 1962, were portrayed in the 2005 hit movie The World's Fastest Indian.

John Munro said his father bought the Indian depicted in the film in 1920 and worked on it for 57 years up until his death, hugely increasing its claimed top speed of 55mph.

Munro's surviving children, all in their 80s, were working to ensure their father's achievements continued to be recognised, something that did not widely happen while the champion was alive.

Before the movie was made, many in New Zealand saw Munro as "some silly old bugger that didn't really know what he was up to", his son said.

Three years ago, when the United States Indian Motorcycle Company was resurrected after an absence of more than half a century, its new owner Polaris Industries recognised Munro's legendary connection, naming its 21st century Indian Streamliner "Spirit of Munro".

* This article has been updated with photos and embedded videos since it was originally published.

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