Southland: Burt Munro

Published: 09/03/2012 by Visit-Southland

Burt Munro

Burt Munro set a Motorcycle Speed Record in 1967 with his homebuilt 1920 Indian Scout and his inspirational story was captured in the highly acclaimed movie ‘The World’s Fastest Indian’. Visit movie location sites as well as real life places from Burt’s extraordinary life.

Day One    Invercargill

  • Begin your journey visiting Tramway Road in Invercargill. This is where Burt married Beryl in 1925. When they separated in 1951, the house was sold and he bought a section on Bainfield Road. It was there that the Indian took shape.
  • Drive to Lithgow Street, the site of the film set for the ‘World’s Fastest Indian’ movie. Producers had to recreate Burt’s Bainfield Rd workshop among the old state houses on Lithgow Street. Using the stories of those who knew him, they recreated the small shed in which he lived and turned a motorbike, designed to go 50 mph, into a 200 mph record breaker.
  • Head to the site of the original workshop at 105 Bainfield Road where he built the Indian motorcycle. If the stories are true, it was also where Burt made barrels from pieces of pipe scrounged from the Gas Company, and cast motorcycle parts in old tin cans.
  • In the city centre stop off at the impressive hardware store E Hayes & Son on Dee St. Store. Owner Norman Hayes helped Burt get the materials he needed to modify the Indian and when Burt’s health deteriorated, Norman bought two of his bikes and all his parts to keep his motorcycling legacy in Southland.
  • Lunch at the cafe in the Southland Museum & Art Gallery and visit the tuatara breeding programme.
  • The Crescent offers an area of historic Invercargill architecture and is the site of the pension office scene where Burt made a play for Fran, played by New Zealand actress, Annie Whittle.
  • Experience the thrills of Teretonga Park where Burt suffered many injuries during his test runs, including when he crashed his Vellocette motorbike in a 100mph crash at Teretonga Raceway.
  • Carry on to Oreti Beach, famous for the Indian test-runs. Unable to use the Indian on the open road, the beach became host to a long list of his beach speed records, including a New Zealand Open Beach record of 131.38mph in 1957, and another of 136mph in 1975. It may even be where Burt cast his Indian’s pistons in the sand.
Day Two    Invercargill - Winton
  • After spending the night in Invercargill, drive past the site of Kew Hospital Ward 6. An angina attack was yet another problem and nearly ended his motorcycle days, but his daredevil lifestyle continued nonetheless. In the movie, the hospital was also used as the set for the US Custom Office.
  • On the outskirts of town visit the Tisbury Hall. It was here that Burt Munro celebrated his birthday and the community held a dance to raise money to send him and the Indian Scout to the USA. The dance was disrupted by gang riders who doubted the Indian’s worthiness to perform on the Bonneville Salt Flats.
  • For a 20 minute drive north of Invercargill, The Bank of New Zealand in Winton provides the site of the bank loan scene in the movie showing how far Burt would go to pursue his dream. Burt put up the title to his property to get the money he needed to have his bike speed tested at the Bonneville salt flats in USA.
  • You may want to finish the tour paying your respects to Burt Munro at the Eastern Cemetery in Invecargill. Burt Munro was buried in Invercargill's oldest cemetery on 11 January 1978. Burt’s burial site is in block 23 – ask at the office for directions.

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Southland: Burt Munro