On This Day In History: The Movie ‘World’s Fastest Indian’ premiered in theaters on February 3, 2006. The motion picture depicted the true story of motorcycle racer and record holder Burt Munro. In the 1960s, Munro set three speed records on his modified 1920 Indian Scout motorcycle in Utah at the Bonneville Salt Flats.
In the late 1940s, Herbert Munro quit his day job and spent every waking minute rebuilding his Indian and Velocette motorcycles, which dubbed him as a lunatic according to his neighbors.
Originally from Invercargill, New Zealand, Munro set several speed records in the 1940s and 1050s, and was determined to make it to the states to race on Utah’s Bonneville Salt Flats (about 100 miles west of Salt Lake City).
The Salt Flats are a rigid and level 30,000 acre former lake. It’s an area so flat you can see the curvature of the planet. An ideal area for racers to put the petal to the metal and open up the throttle. The Flats became the standard arena for setting and breaking land-speed records.
Determined to make it to Utah, Munro boarded a cargo ship in 1962 working as a cook to pay his voyage fare. Shortly after his arrival he set his first world record of 178.97 mph with his engine bored out to 850 cc.
Burt returned to the Salt Flats again when he was in his early 60s adamant to set a new land-speed record. He succeeded.
In 1967, Burt reached 183.586 mph in the sub-1,000 cc motorcycle class. His fastest speed at 190.07 mph was the fastest speed ever clocked on an Indian motorcycle during his one-way qualifying run.
Herbert “Bert” James Munro passed away at the age of 78 on January 6, 1978. The Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum had this to say about the motorcycle legend:
“During his life, Munro’s accomplishments were little known outside a select group of motorcycle enthusiasts. With the release of “The World’s Fastest Indian” in 2005 ( the debut of the movie in New Zealand), Munro suddenly became a cult hero in New Zealand.”