The Britten V1000

One man’s ultimate passion brought to life

| September/October 2006


Photo by Neale Bayly

Britten V1000
Years produced:
Total production: 10
Claimed power: 166hp @ 11,800rpm
Top speed: 303kmh (188mph)
Engine type: 999cc quad cam, water-cooled 60-degree V-twin
Weight: 138kg (303.6lb)
Price then: $100,000
Price now: $250,000

As one of the brightest jewels in the Barber Museum’s dazzling crown, the Britten V1000 number seven exudes a semi-mystical presence in the rarified air of this 80,000 square foot motorcycle shrine. There, amongst hundreds of significant motorcycles and thousands of incredible stories, the Britten stands alone as probably the most evocative embodiment of one man’s dream.

Following a path created in his mind to build a world-beating race bike, John Britten took his thoughts, and with every ounce of courage, determination and skill he possessed, turned them into reality with his own hands. Shocking the motorcycle world with his futuristic creation, humbling factory race teams on the track with its performance, while giving race fans a modern day David to champion against the corporate Goliaths, the Britten V1000 could possibly be the last true privateer-built race bike we will ever see.

Sadly, only 10 of these incredible machines exist, as John Britten lost his life to cancer in September of 1995, just months after a Britten won one of the most epic victories on the high banks of the Daytona International Speedway during Bike Week. John Britten had achieved his dream of beating the world with his “handmade” motorcycle, and his heroic struggle for victory was permanently consigned to the record books. Thankfully, George Barber realized the significant part John Britten played in the history of motorcycle racing and Britten number seven now shines brightly in his world of motorcycle brilliance.

Writing on the wall

Born in Christchurch, New Zealand, in 1950 to Bruce and Margaret Britten, John was a twin to his sister Marguerite, and younger brother to his sister Dorenda. Starting his life of building and tuning early with go-karts, by the age of 12 he had figured out how to power them with small engines. A year later he found an old Indian motorcycle, and he and his pal Bruce Garrick proceeded to restore it. The writing was on the wall.

A four-year degree in mechanical engineering led him into a career as a cadet draftsman, where John would be exposed to a variety of processes including mechanical engineering and mold design. This was followed by a stint in Europe before he settled back in New Zealand working as a design engineer. By 1982 he owned his own business designing and producing handmade glass lighting, and was married to his lovely wife, Kersteen. Later, he went to work for her family’s property management and development company, which saw him enjoy much success with a prestigious apartment building project that came to fruition in 1990.

bike on highway

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