World's Fastest Indian inspires a new backyard tinkerer

An Auckland man was so inspired by the film The World's Fastest Indian, he has built his own bike to smash a new world record.

Michael Noonan, 45, is attempting to set a new land speed world record at the famous Bonneville Salt Flats, in Utah.

For the past three years, independent television production company Kahawai Productions has been documenting Noonan's story. They hope to finish the last leg of the main part of the story, but need financial assistance follow Noonan to Utah. 

Michael Noonan at the Salt Lake Flats in 2015. Unfortunately the races were cancelled due to flooding ten days before ...
Michael Noonan

Michael Noonan at the Salt Lake Flats in 2015. Unfortunately the races were cancelled due to flooding ten days before the event, so Noonan and his entourage went anyway.

Noonan has always been fascinated with building engines. He worked with motorbike engineer John Britten in 1991, and his grandfather was an engineer in World War II.

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Noonan wanted to get involved in a motorsport, but was put off with the actual riding part.

It was after watching The World's Fastest Indian, based on the true story of 67-year-old Invercargill legend Burt Munro's endeavour to set an under-1000 cc world record at Bonneville in 1967, that he realised it could all be achieved.

"It was one of those inspirational movies that helped make things seem accessible," Noon said.

"It sort of suited my skill-set better where I was designing an engine and all I had to do was ride in a straight line."

Noonan's bike that he's rebuilt completely on his own.
Michael Noonan

Noonan's bike that he's rebuilt completely on his own.

Noonan set out to tinker in his back garage in Titirangi - but he had to build the garage first.

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"My neighbours weren't too impressed with all the noise," he said.

Two years later, in 2015, he had the bike he wanted - a 1982 Moto Guzzi V35 reconfigured with a Subaru supercharger, a Nissan intercooler, Yamaha valves, Suzuki conrods and Honda pistons and it was called - The Haast Eagle.

Noonan giving her a twirl on the Salt Flats.
Michael Noonan

Noonan giving her a twirl on the Salt Flats.

He even designed an 'aquarium pump' for an intercooler filled with ice cold water that sits under the seat to cool the air from 90 degrees celsius back down to 11 degrees.

Noonan and his friend Ian Hambly set up the Four 48 Motorcycle Club to support him in getting to the Salt Flats in 2015.

It was tested at Muriwai beach and, after many failures and triumphs, Noonan registered for that year's Bonneville Speed Trials.

Unfortunately, the salt flats were flooded 10 days before Noonan and his group of 24 supporters were set to travel.

The event was cancelled, but they went anyway. It was a blessing in disguise for Noonan.

"It was the perfect place to give it a test," he recalled.

"It was a lot harder and less slippery than I expected, and quiet to ride on.

"It was the same grip as a wet road, but like riding on a pool table with the felt.

"When I changed from fourth gear into fifth gear the bike started to weave and I had to slow down and that was 200kmh."

The bike maximum speed is 240kmh.

In two weeks time, Noonan will return to the Salt Flats to give it another shot, this time with just three supporters on hand and hopefully a documentary filmmaker.

Noonan will race in a different category to Burt Munro, one for which the speed record is 59 miles per hour (94kmh)

He's likely to smash the record - aiming for a personal goal of 209kmh. 

"There was a moment in the film, and I can't remember the exact quote, but there was a moment when Burt Munro said, 'I've always been interested with things that roll and go', and that was kind of something that I thought - I've always been the same like that,: Noonan said.

"I've always had a passion for engines."

Noonan has done it all by himself. He didn't want a bike with advertisement stickers plastered all over it. He wanted to prove that "one person doing it in their garage can still be the best in the world".

"I don't have to have an open chequebook," he said.

Kahawai Productions director Brendon Butt said it was a story that couldn't be missed.

"(Noonan) is a backyard pro , he's doing it for his own satisfaction and he's doing it without asking anyone for anything," Butt said.

He said Kiwis love stories about "backyard tinkerers" and people that "go for projects outside the norm".

To donate so that Kahawai Productions can document the last part of Noonan's story, click here.








 - Stuff


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