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John Britten and his V1000 - a modern fairy tale

I promised I’d tell you a modern fairy tale: the one about John Britten. This has all the makings to tell us a good bed time fairy tale.

We have a good knight, a pure soul visionary genius, a great passion, there’s also a blonde wife who looks like a princess, a small village halfway around the world and a very early death of the protagonist, who became a legend and earned his place in history


The Britten was built in the town of Christchurch, in a shed, as well as Steve Jobs, Harley&Davidson and many mores. That’s all well and good, except that the bike is TOTALLY self-made, including the engine. If I remember correctly, the bike was presented in 1991 and it cranks out 160 horsepower, worthy of a GP 500 two stroke prototype.

The engine is almost all exposed, it’s a brilliant V-twin and the bike weighs less than 140 kg. In short, 26 years ago, an amazing bike, that even today could give anyone a run in any race. But I don’t think it’s fair to talk about technical data only, this project is a combination of technology, design, beauty and … dream. The suspension system is unique, with the rear shock absorber installed ahead the engine. Not to mention the wonderful visual of the exhaust manifolds which twirl on the big cylinder. 

( tnks to johnnyboy0212)

Because we’re talking about fairy tale, another interesting piece of the puzzle is that the Britten was not only fast and manageable, but it gives a run to the superbikes of the time. Just ten were made, so the Britten bike had not what it took to enroll in the official superbike championship; I’ve been reading and doing research and I found out that in the New Zealand Superbike Championship (where the Britten bike raced with an exemption) the Britten wiped out the competition, it won in Daytona, Assen in the Battle of Twins and set a fast lap at the Tourist Trophy as well.

In short, a martian spaceship landed on earth during a very streak period as regards passion for motoring. It’s no coincidence that the whole thing was conceived over there, on that island (that’s actually two different islands) that emerges from the waters of Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean; headstrong and fierce people, proud of their country, but especially people in love with motoring. As I seen with my own eyes, during Spring Kiwis use to organize all kind of races: on circuit, on road, off road, on sand, two or four wheels, it doesn’t matter, the only thing that matters is the massive passion for gas and everything about engine (I’ve seen a sort of old tractor race on the beach). John Britten was born and grown up not that far from Invercargill, where the legend Burt Munro was born. You think it’s just a coincidence? Maybe, or maybe not.

Returning to the Britten bike, I’ve never seen something like this before, even if I suppose that one sample is owned by an Italian an it’s from a private collection. Actually I saw the Britten twice, the first at the Te Papa museum and the second at the Mecca Motor in Invercargill. It’s incredible how I got hypnotized both times, just stood there like a fool watching every single detail and it gave to me a sort of “good anxiety”, like a great emotion that emerged in me. John passed away at 45 to a bad illness, maybe too often neglected in order to follow his true passion, but I don’t know, just imagining. Check on the web the clips, which tell about his story, or better yet, buy the DVD, make yourself comfortable and be ready to get emotional, like I did.

Thanks John and thanks to your wife, that even today carries on the remembrance of your dream. Motorcycling needs this kind of stories, sometimes, maybe too many times the motorcycle world got worse and passionless. John Kenton Britten, engineer, dreamer, genius, great man.

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