Burt Munro Challenge 2023: John Britten bike display now bigger and better
You heard it here first: our display celebrating Kiwi legend John Britten is set to get even bigger, with the arrival of the Britten Aero-D-Zero, just in time for the Burt Munro Challenge 2023.
Britten bikes can only be seen in four museums around the world – ours included – but we are exceptionally proud to lead the pack, with the Aero D Zero bringing our John Britten collection up to a whopping four bikes.
The bike will be on loan from a private collector.
Transport World executive director Joc O’Donnell says the Britten Aero-D-Zero will be a magnificent addition to Classic Motorcycle Mecca.
“Invercargill’s love of wheels gives our city a point of difference, and we feel incredibly lucky at Classic Motorcycle Mecca to showcase one of New Zealand’s all-time greats in the motorcycling world thanks to our display of John Britten bikes,” she says.
“John Britten was a creative genius, and he left an indelible mark on motorcycling around the world thanks to his revolutionary engineering and vision.
“His story really is an aspirational one and we were genuinely honoured to have been asked to display this bike in our collection by its owner. We know our visitors will absolutely love it.”
The Aero-D-Zero represents the beginning of the bikes that made John Britten a star on the world stage.
Back in the mid-1980s, John Britten and his good mate Mike Brosnan decided to build themselves two race bikes: one for each of them. The Aero bikes started out as a styling project, featuring extended aerodynamic fronts with spoilers and avant-garde bodywork. Their design was sleek and slick, with the shape conforming to their riders’ bodies.
Transport World workshop manager Graeme Williams says John Britten’s vision changed the motorcycling world.
“John Britten’s been called the ‘backyard visionary’ and that’s certainly true,” he says. “He was very much an underdog, but he followed his dreams all the way to Daytona. He ended up coming second, up against some of the richest and biggest motorbike manufacturers in the entire world. It’s pretty impressive stuff, and his story still inspires a lot of people. For the team here at Classic Motorcycle Mecca to be able to add another one of his bikes to our collection is just fantastic.”
Mike had an 860cc Bevel engine, and built a steel trellis frame to suit it. Meanwhile, John designed the bodywork, sculpting the plug from a block of polystyrene and car body filler.
(Bob Brookland and Nick Williams pitched in alongside Britten and Brosnan to complete the plug and mold.)
According to Britten New Zealand, the bike featured a petrol-fuelled 860cc bevel drive motor with Imola cams, big valves, standard rods and crank, and in its final spec ran Lectron flat slides. The chassis used Ceriani forks, a fabricated aluminium swing arm activating a Koni shock, and its steel trellis frame was very similar to a modern Ducati bike. Magnesium wheels by Campagnolo, Brembo master cylinders, AP Lockheed front calipers, and a Fontana rear caliper completed the kit. It was intended to be used on the street – the initial bodywork incorporated lights, indicators, switch gear – but it never was. Meanwhile, John’s version – what later became the Aero-D-One (you can check it out here at Classic Motorcycle Mecca too) – was to be the same, but the body work was changed to a monocoque chassis design for race use only. John Britten also decided to power his with a New Zealand-built V-twin engine. John Britten named his bike Aero-D-one, meaning aerodynamic number one. But Mike considered his bike to be first, and named it Aero-D-Zero: since zero comes before one.
Mike Brosnan was very successful racing the Aero-D-Zero, especially after some modifications were made to the front handle bar winglets. These were discovered to cause a “disconcerting lean” at high speed, and were clipped accordingly. The bike was first run in the March 1987 BEARS speed trial, clocking 234.02 kph (145.41 mph). It went on to win the 1988 and 1990 speed trials, with speeds of 242.72 kph (150.82 mph) and 247.80 kph (153.98 mph) respectively.
The Aero-D-Zero and Aero-D-One were both protoype Britten motorcycles. The body work morphed again with the introduction of the next model, the first Britten V1000-powered bike, of which two were built. These were later dubbed Precursors – you’ll find one here – as they came before the third series – including, arguably, the best-known Britten of all: the V1000 Cardinal.