The 1995 Britten V1000: a sculpture that can go 300 km/h
John Kenton Britten (August 1, 1950–September 5, 1995) was a New Zealand mechanical engineer who designed a world-record-setting motorcycle with innovative features which are still ahead of contemporary design.
John Britten was born to Bruce and Ruvae Britten at Christchurch at 10 minutes to midnight and his sister Marguerite just after midnight, so although they were twins they celebrated their birthdays on different dates. Even in birth he showed he was destined to be "different". A dyslexic, he needed to have exam questions read to him at school and during his tertiary education, and his answers recorded by a writer, but that didn't stop him from developing into a remarkable engineer and architectural designer.
His childhood heroes were notable fellow New Zealanders, Richard Pearse (pioneer aviator), Bill Hamilton (father of the jet boat), Bruce McLaren (champion driver and founder of the McLaren Formula One Team), and Burt Munro (world record motorcycle speedster and subject of the film The World's Fastest Indian). In his own short lifetime, Britten was regularly and favourably compared with all of his heroes.
Britten completed a four-year mechanical engineering course at night school before joining ICI as a cadet draughtsman, giving him a wide range of work experience including mould design, pattern design, metal spinning and various mechanical engineering designs.
John travelled to England where he worked for four months with Sir Alexander Gibb & Partners on a highway design linking the M1 to the M4.
Back in New Zealand he was design engineer for Rowe Engineering, designing off-road equipment and heavy machinery. In 1976, he built glass kilns and went into business as a fine artist designing and making hand-made glass lighting, later joining the family property management and development business.
John worked on motorcycle design for some years, developing innovative methods using composite materials and performance engine designs. He created the Britten Motorcycle Company in 1992 to produce revolutionary machines to his own design made of light materials and using engines he built himself, which became famous around the world.
His Britten motorcycles won races and set numerous speed records on the international circuits, and astounded the motorcycle world in 1991 when they came a remarkable second and third against the factory machines in the Battle of the Twins at Daytona, USA.
One of Britten's radical motorcycles is on permanent display at the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, in Wellington, New Zealand. However there has been some controversy over whether the machine on display is a genuine racer or just a "shadow bike", assembled from spare parts
New Zealand mourned in 1995 when John died aged 45 after a brief illness related to skin cancer."