Burt Munro’s Indian Special Honored At Pebble Beach Concours

Held last weekend the yearly Pebble Beach Concours D’Elegance in California is since 2009 welcoming classic and vintage motorcycles as much as automobiles. And this year Burt Munro’s Indian special won top honors for American Racing Motorcycles. A good pretext to remember that like us Burt Monroe had a dream, built a motorcycle just the way he could, and that in his case it took him 20 years to achieve his dream of holding a land speed record. He was 68 when in 1967 he rode his 1920 Indian Scout based streamliner to a world record of 183.586 mph. on the Salts of Bonneville. Munro often barely scratched out a living but his life was clearly rich, as is the one of most custom builders and speed racers doing their job essentially pushed by love and passion.

33 Responses to “Burt Munro’s Indian Special Honored At Pebble Beach Concours”

  1. 1 Bigal Aug 22nd, 2010 at 9:08 am

    Was Burt there? Did he display his Indian by himself? Does He want to sell the Indian? I think Burt really one the Hokus Pokus Challenge, also I think He was was the Dood who is holding the Winnings!

  2. 2 raycwheeler Aug 22nd, 2010 at 2:56 pm

    one of my heros.
    ray usa

  3. 3 Curt! Aug 22nd, 2010 at 8:43 pm

    Burt shed the mortal coils on 6 January 1978. He was one of my personal heroes. The guy had heart, intelligence, guts, but no money. He should be an inspiration to every struggling biker trying to make a mess of parts into something really special.

  4. 4 nicker Aug 22nd, 2010 at 9:08 pm

    Yes, something to remember:

    “… like us Burt Monroe had a dream, built a motorcycle just the way he could, and that in his case it took him 20 years to achieve his dream…”

    Well, yes……like some of us, anyway.


  5. 5 Todd8080 Aug 22nd, 2010 at 9:24 pm

    What I find most amazing is that Munro’s class record of 183.586 mph still stands unbeaten today.

  6. 6 Steve McMasters Aug 22nd, 2010 at 10:10 pm

    One word………………. LEGEND !

  7. 7 BIG DOUG Aug 23rd, 2010 at 4:51 am

    Go to http://www.ehayes.co.nz and see the original and burts velo,the burtmunro rally is at the end of november and I alway pop into the hardware store where they are on permanent display for a look.

  8. 8 Darin Maltsberger- Instructor@MTI Aug 23rd, 2010 at 8:47 am

    Burt was one of my all time heroes. I show my students “The worlds’ Fastest Indian” as part of their unit on Bonneville and the technology developments in the motorcycle Industry that have occurred because of racing there. I am taking twelve of those students to Bonneville on Thursday. They are volunteering to work the BUB speed trials this year. No better way to meet all those living legends and experience that rush that is Speed racing at the Bonneville Salt Flats.

  9. 9 Drew Gatewood Aug 23rd, 2010 at 10:07 am

    In 2006 two great motorcycle landspeed racers Burt Munro and Denis Manning were inducted into the AMA Hall of Fame, and I rode to Ohio for the ceremony. Munro’s children (now both in their 70s) John and June came over from New Zealand on behalf of their Father, along with a N.Z. public television crew. I had the pleasure of spending time with them, both before and after the ceremony. The stories were great.

    Also, two of my cherished motorcycle racing possessions are Burt Munro related. Bronze castings of his home made pistons and connecting rods; which were produced in a local foundry in Invercargill N.Z. They are both marked #3 of 25 sets made.

  10. 10 gina woods Aug 23rd, 2010 at 12:06 pm

    Drew – I remember that – I was there too! A great day to pay tribute to both these achievers!!
    I had the opportunity of a lifetime when I got to race Bonneville two years ago…they finally let me take my turn down the salt, as I pulled up to the starting flags and took a deep breath I looked around to the blueist skies ever and whitest salt everywhere else..it was a mazing as I lined up and said WOW I can’t believe I’m here …I remebered Burt’s moments from the film!

  11. 11 martin Aug 24th, 2010 at 12:22 am

    Any body know how Dennis Manning and Chris carr did this year?

  12. 12 Kurt Simmers Aug 24th, 2010 at 6:10 am

    The BUB Speed Trials start this weekend.

  13. 13 Micah McCloskey Aug 24th, 2010 at 6:06 pm

    Burt was the one of the purist form of motorcycle racer I ever met, and certainly the most dedicated.
    He had two goals in life. One : The Indian will go faster than last time it ran the course, Two: The Vellocette will go faster than the last time it ran the course. Period. Nothing else. Nada.
    He gave up all other obligations so he could achieve these goals.
    I spent several weeks with Burt, staying with me and my family prior to Bonneville Speed Week (1971 & 1975).
    He in no uncertain terms dedicated all areas of his life to these motorcycles, a truley remarkable
    effort that I have seen no one person ever come close to achieving. Burt would be proud of the way
    the “MUNRO SPECIAL” looks today(much nicer than it’s racing days).
    Burt is a true Hall of Famer that makes “The Hall” a special place.

  14. 14 eric Aug 26th, 2010 at 8:12 pm

    I was at Pebble and was told the special was on the field. What an honer, Bert was there in spirit at the greatest meeting of land and sea. It was a privalage to be there.

  15. 15 glenn wilson Aug 27th, 2010 at 11:33 am

    Just to make sure we are all clear about what was displayed there at Peeble Beach.That bike is only part of the original. There were at least 2 shells made, of which this is one of them, but only one engine. And that engine is in Invercargill. So what people were looking at was maybe 50 % So when the statement is made that this bike is Burt Munro’s record winning / race winning bike, then that is not a true statement.
    Hope this helps.

  16. 16 maroco Aug 27th, 2010 at 3:23 pm

    Very good exemple of true dedication to the motorcycle world.

  17. 17 Phil Schack Aug 28th, 2010 at 11:30 am

    Mr. Wilson.
    If we use Mr. Hanna’s book “One Good Run” as an accurate accounting of Burt’s antics, it would be impossible for Burt to have only one engine. In the book there are several accounts of Burt scattering the engine into multiple pieces. I recall one event when the rear connecting rod let go and went through the crank case into the gear box and locking the rear wheel up at around 160mph on the beach in New Zealand. I also recall when Burt was alerted to a stash of spares in Australia that included many spare cases, which he purchased. Also in the book the day that Burt set the record in 1967 he burnt a piston on the backup run. My point is this. Burt built a race bike. It was a two run engine at best. He did that on purpose. It is the only way that you can obtain the horse power he did out of that engine design and configuration. So using this information and the many pictures that are online and in my possession of blown up engines the only logical hypothesis is that Burt built many engines with what ever was available. Also I should probably mention that I am the person who made the necessary parts to make the engine run after it was blown up again 23 years ago. Burt’s fabulous but very thin forked rod let go when it was started at a show long before the movie came out. I also prepared the bike for Pebble Beach. Putting back all of the original parts using pictures and what was available to me from the restoration. Having spent this much time on the bike I am very familiar with how Burt did things. The engine in this motorcycle was built by Burt Munro. His signature is all over it. If you have ever built anything you will know what I mean. If not I will not be able to explain it to you. Is the engine in the bike the one that set the record? No. Is the one that is in New Zealand the one? No. It does not exist in it’s original form. As for the actual chassis, this is the one that went down the salt. Last month I meant Louis Barero. He approached us at a show and said “He had some things that belonged to Burt”. I was a bit suspicious. Until he pulled out a pith helmet that was signed by Burt thanking Louis for all of his help. He also had two push rods that fit the engine perfectly. It turns out Louis helped Burt unload the bike off of the boat. As he looked at the bike he started to tell us about all of the features on the bike and why they were there. It all made sense as to what he was saying. He was there. Ultimately restoring the bike and showing it is a celebration of Burt’s accomplishments not to expand the egos of those who own parts that he built. That is why I did all of the work on the bike. There was no money and no glory. It was just restoring the life of a very cool guy.

    Respectfully yours,
    Phil Schack

  18. 18 Dan Reichel Aug 30th, 2010 at 4:20 pm


    Your comments are greatly appreciated. Thanks for the clarification. (BTW) I am the Dan that helped you and Tom push the bike up to the podium area just two Sunday’s ago. It was an honor that I will not forget. Hope to see you soon.

    Dan Reichel

  19. 19 Phil Schack Aug 30th, 2010 at 10:07 pm

    Hi Dan,

    I am glad to see you have you finger on the pulse and thanks again for all of your help at the show.
    I think it was an honor for all of us. As I look at the pictures I occasionally have to pinch myself and realize that we were there and won. It is still sinking in. As they say in the flat and square states, ” I think we did the old boy (Burt) proud”. It was a great time that none of us will forget. Nice talking to you.


  20. 20 Glenn Pierce Aug 31st, 2010 at 12:24 pm

    Note name on tail of WFI! Burt stayed with us in San Gabriel Ca when he stayed in the USA. We stored the shell above the work bench as he brought spares in suit cases and assembled the engine when he got here. We had complete machine shop which dazzled him even a electric hack saw which he used all the time + lathes etc. When the engine was installed we would bump start him up the alley, brought the PD out on occasion, in fact Gale Banks rented a spare shop from us next door and thought what is that old man up to! Yes, made numerous changes to the shell, but I lifted it over the bench a few times! Dad (Sammy Pierce) funded him, loaned him a car and gas for the trips to the salt. I have seen the bike in the ’60s and followed through to Pebble Beach as I was at the show. Tom the current owner lives 10 minutes away from my vacation home in Morro Bay, I have followed the bike from the 60’s to the present. In fact I acquired the “Harley Eater” that Dad built and ran on the Salt in the 60’s and have pictures of Burt and Dad standing by bikes. I have been there, where were the people who are coming up with all this chatter. Glenn Pierce

  21. 21 Phil Schack Aug 31st, 2010 at 6:50 pm

    Thanks Glenn. Much appreciated.


  22. 22 glenn wilson Sep 2nd, 2010 at 9:09 pm

    No problem with the chassis and shell as you have stated Mr. Schack. Tim Hanna makes it quite clear that the engine went back with Burt to NZ. You may be able to get your hand on Roger Donaldsons book for clarification of the engine documentation. If not, I could photo copy mine for you.
    My only concern with this whole thing is, that if the bike is not whole and original , then the info sitting in front of the bike while on display should say so.. maybe it did say that this bike is only 50% or so original . When I responded to a “for sale 1980 kawasaki 1300” , when I paid the owner the money for the bike so described, thats what I got. I got the complete bike with the 6 cylinder engine as stated in the ad , not a 4 cylinder engine or some other substitute.

  23. 23 Phil Schack Sep 3rd, 2010 at 12:19 am

    Hi Glenn,
    Thanks for the response. As I see it if the bike were “original” and complete as Burt purchased it, the sign would have read, ” Stock 1920 Indian Scout, owned by Burt Munro of New Zealand.” Since it is a highly modified Indian Scout I am trying to figure out where you draw the line of stock or original. Burt changed or modified the bike on a daily basis. Once the basic motorcycle became a streamliner most of those modifications were to the engine. I think everyone agrees that the engine and only the engine went back with Burt every year. However he did this for several years. He also ran the engine in the bike that is in New Zealand that has the front mounted fuel tank and no shell fittings. So what iteration of engine did he bring back for the last time. You would suggest that the “virgin” case halves in New Zealand with some “original serial number” on one of them are the ones that survived all of the broken rods, pistons and seized crank bearings during the long racing carrier of Burt Munro on this Indian. I know we have very early cases, as there is evidence to the crank bearings spinning in the cases or most likely a rod let go and pushed the crank off center cracking the cases. These cases have been welded up all the way around the bearing sleeves. I have been welding for 30 years and this ain’t pretty. It is very Burt. It is hard to say when it happened but it is obviously an emergency repair. They have also been modified with the Burt Munro oil sump on the rear of the case. Again very crudely welded and riveted. So I guess my point is this: unless Burt took the original engine out of the bike and put it on a shelf and then built his first of many engines from modified stock lower end Indian parts and the hand fabricated upper end, it is impossible for the cases that are in New Zealand to be the only ones he used. As for your 50% issue. Since Burt modified every part including the cases, how are two pieces of cast aluminum with a serial number on them 50% of anything, except for themselves. As far as the bike being original and complete: there is no such thing. The bike and engine combination that set the record in 1967 is different then the combination that ran in subsequent years. The motorcycle was in a constant state of flux until the day he quit riding it.

    Respectfully yours,
    Phil Schack

  24. 24 Dan Reichel Sep 5th, 2010 at 4:25 pm

    Very well put. Thanks for sharing from your wealth of knowledge about this wonderful bike.

    Dan R.

  25. 25 glenn wilson Sep 8th, 2010 at 5:14 pm

    I guess I will get to the bottom of the engine thing sooner or later. I’m waiting on some more documentation to come from NZ. Here’s Roger Donaldson’s take on the engine.

    Question: Did he retire?

    Donaldson: He retired by dropping dead. He died of a heart attack and pneumonia.

    Question: Where is the motorcycle now?

    Donaldson: The engine is in New Zealand. When we made the movie we built two exact replicas of the real bike, and then we built two replicas where the exterior looks the same, but the engine is different, so we had four bikes. The original engine of the original bike is in New Zealand, and the frame is here in America.

    Question: How many times did he go to the Bonneville Salt Flats?

    Donaldson: He went nine times, I think. I think 1974 was the last time.

    Question: Did he remember to register after that?

    Read the whole interview here .http://www.aboutfilm.com/movies/w/worldsfastestindian/donaldson.htm

  26. 26 Phil Schack Sep 8th, 2010 at 10:38 pm

    Hi Glenn,
    I guess we need to define *original* as it pertains to this matter. As I see it, the original engine is the one that came in the bike from Indian. A side valve flat head configuration. At the point where it was modified to an overhead valve push rod configuration all bets are off. The record was set in 1967. Mr Donaldson states the last run was in 1974. Just guessing, how many times do you suppose the engine blew up in that time period? When it did blow up, how many times did it destroy the cases? Let’s say it destroyed the cases one time. So where is that original engine. I spoke with Glenn Pierce ( Pierce Indian) this weekend at a barbeque. He mentioned that Burt brought many connecting rods with him in his suit cases. Some finished and some not. So I am guessing he anticipated breaking a few. Usually when that happens, engine cases and cylinders are damaged. So going back to the word original, when he replaced the rods and whatever else was damaged the engine was not the same or *original*. So the point I am trying to make is that the engine that came back from Bonneville in 1974 was no where near the same as the engine that came to the USA the first time. The engine that set the record in 1967 in it’s original form simply cannot exist. I have been working on this bike for about 3 years. In that time I have been amazed at how many people who were with Burt during these times have come to my shop to see the bike and see how I was doing on the engine rebuild. Most of those people came here at different times but told the same stories. Since I was not there I have to go by what they said happened. When I pair there information with what is available in pictures and text on the internet I can only conclude what I have stated in previous replies to this issue. In the last few pages of Mr. Hanna’s book “One Good Run” he mentioned that Burt wanted to put aluminum rods in the engine for the next run. That run didn’t happen but the aluminum rods are in the bike and it sounds so sweet. So I guess that makes it posthumously up to date.

    Best regards,


  27. 27 glenn wilson Sep 13th, 2010 at 1:19 pm

    Here are 3 examples of the word *original * as it relates to the present topic .
    1. 1. Question: Where is the motorcycle now?
    Donaldson: The engine is in New Zealand. When we made the movie we built two exact replicas of the real bike, and then we built two replicas where the exterior looks the same, but the engine is different, so we had four bikes. The original engine of the original bike is in New Zealand, and the frame is here in America. Roger Donaldson http://www.aboutfilm.com/movies/w/worldsfastestindian/donaldson.htm
    2. Tim Hanna . “One Good Run” page 304.
    He {Burt } could not bear to part with his original engine, so he built up a second with the help form Norman Hayes.

    3. This web site has many photo’s – this one showing the streamliner before restoration in Sam Piece’s yard with the caption “ As found in Sam Pierce’s yard. The streamliner with a spare motor. Bert brought the only motor back from Bonneville for further work, leaving this frame behind. The motor shown here is built from spares.

    It appears to me , that you are the odd man out here Phil.
    Have you any other commentators supporting you ideas that you could post here for me to see.
    Also, I have never heard anyone else talk about this Second race engine theory either- do you have any documentation on that ?

  28. 28 Phil Schack Sep 14th, 2010 at 8:44 pm

    Hi Glenn,

    3. This web site has many photo’s – this one showing the streamliner before restoration in Sam Piece’s yard with the caption “ As found in Sam Pierce’s yard. The streamliner with a spare motor. Bert brought the only motor back from Bonneville for further work, leaving this frame behind. The motor shown here is built from spares.

    I would agree with this. So let’s look at this logically. You have an engine or cases brought back in the early 70s and were never returned. There is another engine that was built up from worn out spare parts including the cases which have been welded up as a result of something letting go in the engine. That is the engine that is in the bike now. So logically it would seem to me that the pieces that are here came from an earlier configuration of the engine then that which you have. If the cases you have are the original ones from day one then there would be no reason for the cases and parts here to exist and I suspect that there would be no offerings to the God of speed. As far as documentation, I have had every part of this engine and bike in my hands. All of them. I know how Burt did things. I know racing engines and how long they last under the best conditions and engineering. So back to the original topic and that was is this the engine that set the record. No, but it is earlier by you own admission then the one that is in New Zealand so that one can not be either.
    I am sure that Mr. Donaldson and Mr. Hanna did extensive research before the book and movie came out, but they were not at Pierce Indian with Glenn Pierce and his father Sam, and they were not at Marty Dickerson’s house and they were not with Dave Mooney and Marty Dickerson at the salt when Burt set the record. All of these people have been here and have the same thing to say about Burt. So with my hands on experience and the information that I have received from those who were there and housed Burt I will still conclude that the engine in the bike is made up from early used parts including the cases and the one that is in New Zealand is the last iteration that Burt built, and Burt being the typical racer, it is much better and a far cry from the engine that went down the salt in 1967.

    Best regards,
    Phil Schack

  29. 29 JimC Sep 15th, 2010 at 8:35 am

    Thank you to Phil and Glenn for sharing your personal experiences with all of us. It is a priviledge for us to hear the stories as to what happened then and now. Burt is an inspiration for his dedication and perserverance.

  30. 30 Phil Schack Sep 15th, 2010 at 11:44 pm

    Hi Jim,
    You are very welcome. Burt is truly an inspiration. I started racing quarter midgets when I was 4 1/2. That was 52 years ago and I have been involved some kind of modified vehicle ever since I guess it just gets in your blood. When I had the engine here completely apart, I thought that it was quite crude. Then I realized I was seeing it from my perspective. I have had a machine shop for 30 years. So I have all of the latest equipment and know how. Burt had a Myford bench top lathe, a hacksaw and a file. He also had dedication and perseverance as you mentioned. As I started rebuilding the engine and realized how much work it was using what I have compared to what he had, it became quite clear what kind of man he was. He had vision, desire and expected that he would set the World’s Land Speed Record at Bonneville or die trying. So after a lifetime of work his vision became reality. After we prepared the bike for Pebble Beach I wedged myself in it or on it however you want to look at it. I am not that big and it was a very tight fit with very limited visibility. Burt was 11 years older then I am now and I can’t imagine going 100mph on this bike let alone 190 and some change. It is really quite amazing.
    Thanks for checking in us here.

    Best regards,
    Phil Schack

  31. 31 glenn wilson Sep 17th, 2010 at 12:03 pm

    To deal with the first part of your reply first Phil, where you are questioning the reason for the engine the Pierce bike has now , and the reason for it’s existance. From all the quotes I have recently posted on this site it appears a quite reasonable assumption to make that:
    Burt leaves America for the last time after doing some trial runs at Bonneville for the documentary being done by Roger Donaldson. Gets to California with said bike and Sam Pierce wants to buy the whole bike . Burt relents but wont part with his engine so sells just shell and frame and sends engine back to NZ. But now Sam is left with only a part of the bike ,or as I called it , 50% . So on Burts return to NZ, with the help of Norman Hayes, they put together another engine from spares they have lying around and send it to America, which is the engine that is in the shell/frame now. After all , Burts engine was #627 off the asembly line , so there was 626 other scouts out there somewhere.
    And as to the second part of your post of Sept 14 . If the men that you mention as being actively involved in the Indian from way back, are they prepared to go on public record supporting the ideas you have promoted here. My point is, after reading all the info I have again and still can’t find anything to support the *more than one race engine theory* , maybe these men can help you out.

  32. 32 Victor D. Phillips Jan 29th, 2011 at 12:36 pm

    To Glen Pierce, and Micah McCloskey

    Thank both you guys for helping to set the story straight.

    While I was in the Coast Guard and stationed in California, my friends Brent Nevius, Leonard Macereith and I would visit Sammy all the time,..(I even had dreams of working for SAMMY- I tell people that Micah beat me outta the job,…LOL)

    I bought Leonards ROYAL ENFIELD, and would order parts through the shop,..

    I tell people that entering SAMMY’S shop, was like stepping back in time,…it reeked of “Days Gone By”,..the musky smell is still etched in my memories,..and I try to explane how the Showrooms outter wall was raised, ( or ground level) , and how the inner was sunken,…in a circuler pattern,…do either of you guys have photos that shows this ???

    The stuff he had hanging on the walls are worth their weight in GOLD now !

    It was great to enter his shop, walk in,..step down,..cross the floor, then step up to the counter to shoot the breeze with “MR INDIAN” himself !

    I still have his business card from those days,..LOL

    Do either of you guys remember the Beautiful Blonde Girl who worked in “Parts”,.that rode the old Indian, with the tan hand tooled solo seat ???

    I was thinking her name was Cathy/Kathy ? But Mac swears her name was “Linda”,..it was probably 1973,..give or take a year or two ???

    You guys can hollar at me anytime through my facebook,..or email me at nativeson53@sbcglobal.net

    Victor D Phillips

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