Burt Munro encapsulated what it meant to be Kiwi.
A diligent, untiring bloke who put family first yet never gave up on his ambitions.
This week marked 54 years to the day that Munro rode into land speed folklore at Bonneville.
Riding a 47-year-old Indian motorcycle on August 26, 1967, Munro set a record speed in the under 1000cc class.
His run of 295.453kph is a record that still stands to this day.
However, records aside, it was Munro’s character that defines him as a motorsport legend.
Lee Munro called Burt his Great Uncle. The lineage is slightly more complex, but Lee has close family ties to the man.
Burt passed away when Lee was only two years old. So, he has no memories of personal interaction with Burt.
It wasn’t until Lee was older when he understood what made Burt the inspirational character he will always be.
“I guess it is that Do-It-Yourself kind of attitude he had,” Lee told Velocity News.
“Coming from the bottom of the world…he didn’t give up.”
Burt rose to the top of the motorcycle speedway scene in New Zealand and Australia, all while in his 20s.
While he was across the ditch, Burt was offered factory ride deals from top-end race teams. Each of them promising global success.
Though Burt declined them all.
“He was a family man. He had a wife and kids, and it was a bit hard to bring them around the world with him if he did go racing,” Lee said.
“He is just a typical Kiwi bloke. Humble, would get stuck in and up to his elbows with work, but always a family man.”
Burt’s story has been told several times over. Though the most notable telling was in the 2005 film ‘The World’s Fastest Indian.’
The film, directed by Australian-born Kiwi Roger Donaldson, portrayed Burt’s journey from a wishful man in Invercargill to rewriting land speed history.
It is a motivating piece that has inspired many people.
Lee unintentionally bumped into one of those particular persons while he was over in America with the Indian Racing team for Speedweek at Bonneville.
“I was with John, Burt’s son, in America, and we went to this diner.
“I wish I remember the name of the place, but it was this awesome steak house.
“We were having a feed when the waiter came up. He saw the Indian shirts we were wearing and pointed them out.
“He mentions the movie, saying it was his favourite, and we start laughing among us. He didn’t believe who we were, and John had to show him his driver’s licence to prove who he was.
“The waiter was super excited and said he had to tell his manager about this.
“So, out comes the kitchen manager, and you could see he was trying to compose himself.
“In the end, he just broke down. He told us his story about how he was stuck in some low town as a youngster. But one day he decided to watch the movie.
“He said Burt’s story inspired him so much to never give up on his dreams. So, he moved to LA and worked himself up to eventual becoming a restaurant manager.
“And he says he owed it all to Burt.”
Burt’s drive and determination has had a massive influence on society.
He demonstrated to the world that the only prerequisite for success is a vision, a big heart, and perseverance.
“Burt has left a legacy that will live on forever,” Lee said. “It is not so much what he did as it is his character.”