The John Britten story is simply amazing. If you visit The Kneeslider, you’re probably aware that he designed and built the motorcycle that bears his name, but until watching this DVD, I didn’t really know many of the details about the person behind the bike and the team of people he assembled to create this world class racer.
John Britten was from New Zealand, and as the film points out, it’s a very long way to anywhere when you need spare parts, so the population of the island has become quite the nation of do it yourselfers, fixing, modifying or making from scratch and John was right up there at the top of that group. He started with go karts, then found an old Indian Scout which he restored, followed by an old International truck which he dragged out of a swamp and fully restored. His house was converted from a stable and he turned it into a stunning place and when he couldn’t find what he wanted, like cabinet handles or plumbing fixtures, he simply designed what he needed and cast them up.
It takes about 2 minutes of watching this before you’re totally engrossed, the range of skills and knowledge involved in creating the Britten V-1000 is immense, as will be your respect for what he did. The engine was designed and built from scratch, creating the molds and casting the metal parts in his garage. The body, suspension, literally almost everything was built right there!
Britten wanted to race against the best from around the world and he knew you weren’t going to beat the factory teams at their own game, so he figured he would just build a better bike, and he did. Watching the Britten power wheelie while passing a Ducati at high speed, the other racer in full tuck as the homebuilt Britten motors on by is pretty darned impressive.
The Britten V-1000 itself is mechanical eye candy, a perfect example of the idea that great engineering looks good and something John Britten was aware of, he worked hard to make it look right. What a combination, great looks and high performance, something many attempt but few pull off.
It is truly unfortunate that cancer claimed John Britten so young at the age of 45. As many have so often wondered, what else might he have accomplished had he had more years to develop his ideas.
The underlying story here that became so very apparent to me was how John Britten exemplified the “doer” attitude. The words “can’t be done” weren’t part of his vocabulary and no matter how many obstacles appeared in his path, he kept moving forward.
This DVD is a remastered version of the VHS tape that was available in the past. It also has some additional items not on the old tape, there is on board video at Ruapuna and the Isle of Man as well as a photo slide show. There’s a lot of commentary by John Britten throughout which gives you a sense of who he was and you see him working with his team under extraordinary time pressure to finish the bike before Daytona.
If you like The Kneeslider and the kinds of bikes we feature here, if you love the idea of building mechanical things, if workshops and engineering are words that make you sit up and take notice, and above all, if you like the positive “doer” attitude, buy this DVD. I recommend it without reservation.
One caution, if you think this would be a great Christmas gift for someone, order immediately. It is shipped from New Zealand and takes a while to arrive. Order today!
UPDATE: Now available in NTSC format from Amazon:
Link: Britten Story DVD