Tribute To John Britten. Backyard Motorcycle Visionary.

johnbrittenConsidered at the time of his death the best motorcycle engineer in the world, designing and building motorcycles and much more, John Britten gave us a fabulous lesson of perseverance, courage, humility and creativity. If you never watched it, this 5- part documentary (total 7 h 15 minutes) shot in his home in New-Zealand is a must see for all the pros and backyard builders around the world. By the time he died of cancer in 1995, John Britten had become a household name. See the video by going HERE (thanks Pepper).

32 Responses to “Tribute To John Britten. Backyard Motorcycle Visionary.”

  1. 1 Nicker May 7th, 2009 at 9:56 pm

    A class act and a tribute to the art of motorcycle building.
    (which begs the question, that simply has to be asked)…………..

    Why do moronics get more media attention ………… ????

    Just curious.

  2. 2 Dave Blevins May 7th, 2009 at 10:27 pm

    Undeniable passion and ingenuity. Much inspiration can be drawn from John’s life.

  3. 3 Brenda Fox May 8th, 2009 at 1:30 am

    What an amazing innovator ahead of his time.
    He certainly holds his place in motorcycle history.

  4. 4 john reed May 8th, 2009 at 2:31 am

    John Britten is my absolute hero,I don’t think that any individual
    has ever built a bike even close to his last.,almost everything on it
    was an original design and when it was built in his home shop
    as a hand made prototype that was massaged into a successful
    complete package capable of winning races against the biggest OEM
    factories was incredible , I think it took a huge personal talent, amazing
    amount of work and determination from him and a team of friends who
    had expertise in the areas he needed ,and maybe just a little bit of luck.

  5. 5 Mike Greenwald May 8th, 2009 at 6:14 am


    Your question is the most humorous of the year. The answer is quantifiable relationships of like lifeforms.


  6. 6 Michael Schacht Crocker Motorcycle Co May 8th, 2009 at 6:40 am

    This morning I opened my email and started with the usual reading of the Cyril Huze Blog. The “John Britton” article seemed to jump out at me. I followed John’s adventures on the track and with his 101 Scout as many did back in the day, not realizing then that he would not only be the hero of an industry, but an incredible role model for those who aspire to anything above the norm. He is certainly one of my hero’s who’s spirit and unwillingness to give up has helped me to stay the course. If I was a bit short on inspiration this morning, I’m not now! Thanks Cyril!

  7. 7 Michael Schacht Crocker Motorcycle Co May 8th, 2009 at 6:42 am

    Ok, too early for spelling. Britten, Sorry John.

  8. 8 Lyle May 8th, 2009 at 7:51 am

    Yeah, he was a genius. You gotta wonder though, did all that working with composite materials lead to him getting cancer?

  9. 9 Eric May 8th, 2009 at 1:25 pm

    does anyone know where to buy the complete documentary?

  10. 10 Rock Star May 8th, 2009 at 1:58 pm


  11. 11 hoyt May 8th, 2009 at 3:16 pm

    Pepper & Cyril – thanks. This is intense.

    The AMA would do everyone a favor by giving proper attention and promote the BoT race again. It would be a small tribute to Britten.

    Eric – try:

    I don’t know if it is available on cd-rom, yet or not ?

  12. 12 brin May 8th, 2009 at 4:18 pm

    Re; where to buy
    The full documentary is available on the site – click through the clips on the right side of the player. It is not available to buy on DVD anywhere though it is free on the website.

  13. 13 James (Kiwi) May 8th, 2009 at 5:03 pm

    Hi all,
    The Doco is a good look but if you want the truth read Tim Hannahs book. Just called John Britten.JB was a visionary but much of the work was ,as it turned out was done for nothing by his mates. They gave up years of their lives fo no reward.I know a few of the guys quoted in the book and it is word for word, no slant just the truth.
    I went and watched a number of the pre production bikes and have some good photos and memories of these amazing two wheel experiments.

    The “Back yard shed ” mentality has done NZ proud as a country, we are a buch of tinkerers.You are not a man with out a shed to build things in. Though this way of life is going with the advent of the PC,Tv and play station.

    The best Kiwi motorcycle doco is about a Kiwi (Can’t remember his name cause it’s saturaday am)
    who took a Konig German out board motor and put it in a GP bike and blew everyone away.
    I dare anyone to watch it without getting a lump in your throat or have to blink away a liitle extra moisture in your eyes.It tells how callous the orginisers in those days treated the riders and how expendable they were.
    Enough gotta go to my neices wedding.Probably boring as hell with the same ol stories but at least it’s free beer

    James (Kiwi)

  14. 14 rocky May 8th, 2009 at 6:44 pm

    Tenacious at its very best.

  15. 15 Marilyn Sttemp May 8th, 2009 at 11:37 pm

    It’s inspiring – and an affirmation of the authenticity of biking people – to read these comments about John Britten. He literally made something out of nothing, fueled by genuine passion, determined thinking, and yes, John Reed, a bit of luck. And all without antics or drama, just an occasional show of human emotion. What a man to be admired!

  16. 16 hoyt May 9th, 2009 at 1:18 am

    Does anyone know details about his engine? I know it was a 60-degree twin with what appears to be 4-valve heads, but I haven’t come across information other than that…ordering the book.

  17. 17 Mike Tomas Kiwi Indian m/c Co May 9th, 2009 at 9:24 am

    He is a man who commands respect and deserves to be in the history books. One has to admire such guy, he just did it, no dramas and with a smile on his face. My only regret is that I did not have a chance to meet him before his passing. Respect mate!!!

  18. 18 jatinder pal May 10th, 2009 at 4:48 am

    Truly one of the greatest motorcycle designer and a true builder.

  19. 19 Joe Mielke May 10th, 2009 at 10:50 am

    Amazing. I remember getting that issue of Cycle World and thinking what a cool bike. Now watching this video all these years later I find myself thinking. What a cool bike! 20 years from now it will be just as amazing as with was then. What a great bit of history. Was very cool to see all that build footage leading up to Daytona. Wish there was more available to see.
    Amazing, Simply amazing.


  20. 20 Thomas May 11th, 2009 at 8:56 am

    It’s a shame that people like Britten struggle and die, while people like OCC prosper. Life is really unfair.

  21. 21 Michael Lichter May 11th, 2009 at 10:04 am

    Does anyone know if there are any Brittens in the USA? It would be great to have one for the Sturgis ““Rebel Rousers – Motorcycle Icons that Inspired Us to Ride” exhibition. If anyone has any suggestions, please let me know through this post or you can write me at Thanks, Michael

  22. 22 Jim Gianatsis May 11th, 2009 at 12:42 pm

    Britton was the one of he world’s top inovators in motorcycle design and racing.
    Only now is Ducati employing his frameless engine design concept with their new 2009 MotoGP bike.

    His genious is comparable to Colin Chapman and Jim Hall in automotive / car racing.

    I photographed Britten’s superbike for the 1999 Fast Dates Calendar.
    This bike was owned by Mansson Technologies.
    This Calendar is still available in Collectors Corner at

    Thanks for the link to this great Video story!

  23. 23 Brenda Fox May 11th, 2009 at 1:37 pm

    Mike L –
    We had a Britten on the cover of Robb Report Motorcycling quite some time ago. I didn’t do the editorial on that feature, but Cordero shot it for the cover and editorial and maybe he can connect you.

    Jim thats awesome you had it for your Calendar.
    that’s a collectible and I certainly give your props for your knowledge, appreciation and diversity of bikes used on your calendars.

  24. 24 James (Kiwi) May 11th, 2009 at 3:10 pm

    Of the bikes built 4 originaly went to the USA. they are all listed in Tim Hannas book as well as the struggles, tribulations and the mechanical changes,Bike per bike.
    I live in the South of NZ .When I was a kid I pressed my nose on the glass of the local Triumph franchise,there I used to hear stories of Burt Munroe and then he passed on.Then I got to watch the development of the Britten.I went to many of his race days. Especially to the Sound of Thunder where the BEARS (British,European American Racing Sports) let him race outside of the rules cos there was not really a class to cover that bike.(was there ever)That was his shake down day before they would pack up for Daytona.Saw Jason McEwan going sideways in the rain passing bikes up the pit straight with a big rooster tail out the back.
    You do not always know history is in the making when you are actually watching it.

    I went to the 25th aniversary of the Bears last year at Ruapuna park..
    JB raced there on that first day 25 years ago.On a Tiger 110 (i think) along with a grid of others.On that original grid were a couple of my mates and on the Aniversary they put as many of the original crew there again.Silver hair and some without…and some missing… it was a great day. There were 3 Brittens and some development bikes. I have some pic’s. if anyone is interested.

    James (Kiwi)

  25. 25 James (Kiwi) May 11th, 2009 at 8:19 pm

    PS the Brttens were on display not on the grid

  26. 26 mike switzer May 12th, 2009 at 6:27 am

    I just saw a Britten at the Barber museum in Birmingham Al it is fantastic. We went with a local who had never seen the museum, he was supprised at what he had been missing. I would go back, and I live in Mn just to see it again, with 750 bikes on display you don’t know where to look first.

  27. 27 Mike Greenwald May 13th, 2009 at 6:53 am

    A 5-part documentary on New Zealand inventor John Britten.

    During the late 1980s, Kiwi inventor John Britten developed and built
    a revolutionary racing motorcycle. He pursued his dream all the way to
    Daytona International Speedway, where, in 1992, as an unlikely
    underdog, he proceeded to beat the biggest and richest manufacturers
    in the world. Britten: Backyard Visionary documents the maverick
    motorcycle designer that Guggenheim curator Ultan Guilfoyle described
    as “the New Zealander who stood the world of racing-motorcycle design
    on its head.”

    Britten: Backyard Visionary
    ( WS)

    Each segment is about 40 Meg in size. Full screen view looks GREAT.

  28. 28 Mike Greenwald May 13th, 2009 at 7:15 am

    I posted the link for those that wanted to see where “here” was originally taking them.

  29. 29 todd anderson Nov 17th, 2009 at 8:31 pm

    good thank u

  30. 30 Ben Ruffell Oct 25th, 2010 at 5:10 pm


    “One Man’s Dream: The Britten Bike Story” is now available to buy on DVD at:

    It’s a much longer and more complete documentary than the one available at NZONScreen (we made that one as well).


    Ben Ruffell
    DVD Producer

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