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Made From Scratch to Beat the World: The Britten V1000

Alex Kierstein May 25, 2010 Two-Wheel Tuesday 16 Comments

If you’ve followed motorcycle racing closely for many years, you probably already know about the unlikely success of the Britten V1000, a motorcycle almost entirely handmade of bespoke parts. And that includes the engine, cast in aluminum in John Britten’s own shop. Make the jump for an excellent video overview of the Britten story.

So the video is clearly mistitled – it’s probably a Fifth Gear piece, but aside from the over-enthusiastic delivery of the announcer (another sign it’s a Fifth Gear segment) it goes into wonderful detail about Britten’s moment in the sun. The V1000 was competitive, as the video points out, against works bikes from 1991-1994, which is pretty remarkable. Going toe-to-toe with Ducati and Honda at Daytona and the Isle of Man takes some serious moxie.

Because the video’s a little sparse on hard specifications, you should know that the motor was a hand-cast 999cc quad-cam V-twin making about 166 HP at nearly 12,000 RPM. The body and chassis (such as it was – the engine was the main stressed component) were mainly carbon fiber and titanium. And they only made 10, so you probably shouldn’t fire up craigslist and go looking for one.

Image courtesy Britten Motorcycles New Zealand

  • There is one at Barber. My dad told me the story of it and I was thoroughly amazed. It is so impressive that some wacky New Zealanders were able to make a bike that beat the world.


    You should see the film about Burt Munro, a kiwi recold holder with Indian motorcycles.

    • I have! It's pretty fantastic. The scene where he cast the pistons out of scrap metal captivated me.

  • Velocitré

    That cancer took John Britten proves that there is no just and righteous god

    • Yes, a shame. I should've mentioned in the article that Britten Motorcycles might have gone on to bigger and better things had he lived. He was clearly a gifted engineer, and a nonconformist, both admirable traits.

      • I often wonder if he could have been like Erik Buell, but without the nasty penchant for stuffing giant lead paperweights where the motor belonged.

    • Andrew not Stroud

      I would have to say you are wrong. You see Andrew Stroud led John Britten to Christ, not long after he was told he had Cancer so John lives in Heaven,

      “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9 NIV

  • retro

    Actually, I belive this is a 'Top Gear' segment, albeit from the old format 'Top Gear', which was a more traditional style of motoring programme than the current format.

  • I believe I know someone who has one of these. A well to-do former racer and friend of our family, once showed me this bike in is collection (the centerpiece, really) that used the engine as a structural component. I'd never seen anything like it. I'm only assuming this meant it was (is) a Britten.

  • A beautiful machine. John Britten will be missed.

  • Rumblestrip

    This is actually a segment from the documentry One Man's Dream – The Britten Bike Story, I know because I have it.

  • You know, I thought they spoke English in New Zealand.

  • Greg Newman

    great post, but while we are on the topic of kiwi crazy motorbikes, there is quite a lot of excitment building about this ultra lightweight dirt bike that is now being made in new zealand.
    the bike which weights only 125lb (57kg) and is powered by a 125cc 4-stroke 9hp motor is regarded by anyone who has ridden them to be the perfect mix between motorbike and mountainbike..
    i predict they will be the next big thing to come out of new hoonland


  • [youtube UfRfH9uG6ws&feature=relatedhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UfRfH9uG6ws&fe... youtube]

  • You seriously outdid yourself this time. I hope this keeps up

  • Fingloi Delos reyes

    he sell his soul to the devil so he died after his victory… dont sell your soul folks!