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Burt Munro Breaks Record 36 Years After Death

Tuesday, August 5, 2014
With all the pomp and circumstance surrounding the recent unveiling of the 2015 Indian Chief, another revelation concerning the storied marque was made. Thirty-six years after his death, Burt Munro is still breaking records.

His astute son John realized a mathematical error was made on one of Burt’s runs. It was for the AMA Land Speed Record in Classs S.A. 1000 on the 26th Day of August, 1967, on the Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah. It was achieved on an Indian 953cc Fuel Streamliner. The old record was listed at 183.586 mph.

When asked how he came upon this revelation, here’s what John said.

John Munro holds one of his fathers many trophies.
John Munro holds one of his father's many trophies.
John Munro holds the original AMA certificate that contained a slight math error that sold his father short by a half mile-per-hour.
John Munro holds the original AMA certificate that contained a slight math error that sold his father short by a half mile-per-hour.

“Well, I’ll show you. That’s a copy of the original, North and South, OK? Now I was looking at that a couple of months ago and I said, that doesn’t add out. So I got a calculator and put them in, and the average speed that they’ve got in there is wrong, a half-mile out. So I called AMA and spoke to the guy there and he said, ‘Well, we don’t make mistakes.’ So I sent him a copy because I’ve got the original at home. I scanned it and sent it to him and said, now do your sum. So, two days ago, I got that. So, he’s dead for 36 years and he just broke another record!”

The “that” John was referring to was a certificate from the AMA listing the new time of 184.087 mph as the record. This is the average of Munro’s North Run of 184.710 mph and his South Run of 183.463 mph. John noted that they didn’t use calculators back in the day and was a simple case of mathematical error.

John was in Sturgis as the special guest of the Indian Motorcycle Co. who invited him out to help celebrate the unveiling of the new Scout. In addition to sharing his story about the updated land speed record, John brought a wealth of Burt’s personal possessions to share with us. This included a trophy with an inscription that read “World’s Fastest Indian” which sparked the idea for the title of the movie. From a worn leather bag he pulled out two hand-cast pistons, immaculately crafted. There was a hand-carved streamliner, painted Indian Red of course, with a little post on it Munro would use as a hood ornament to test aerodynamics. He showed us the Nevada Bank of Commerce bag used in the movie with a small journal Munro kept full of handwritten notes, secrets to his ability to go fast. Then there was a priceless family album, full of photos of prototypes he built, newspaper clippings from his record-breaking runs along with pictures of his family growing up.

Thanks for sharing John.

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Crashman123   March 28, 2015 08:46 AM
Actually, centerpunch, you're right AND WRONG. the result SHOULD BE 184.086 MPH (however there's a discrepancy in the ORIGINAL numbers, since they're unachievable if following FIA speed calculation regulations [Appendix D section 12.3.1 to 12.3.6]. The ONLY way to get 183.463 mph (the 2nd run speed) is to measure to the FOURTH decimal place and ROUND the numbers (19.6225 s = 183.4628 mph) [(19.622s = 183.467 mph) (19.623s = 183.458 mph)], which is not legal, so there's something screwy here (unless the measurement wasn't exactly a mile). {BELOW I've used no rounding in ANY calculation, and all are to the 1000th of the unit (seconds and mph), AS PER FIA REGULATIONS} The speed of each run is calculated from the time of that run (in THIS case the TIME is calculated FROM THE SPEEDS, since we don't HAVE the original times). The average speed is calculated from the AVERAGE TIMES of the 2 runs ((19.490s/mi N + 19.622s/mi S)/2 = 19.556s/mi average), then divide 3600 (sec/hour) by the result (19.556 sec/mile) to get the miles/hour number (3600/19.556 = 184.086MPH, following the rule of NO ROUNDING). This is VERY CLOSE to the AMA amended speed, so their ORIGINAL times and distances may account for the slight discrepancy of 0.001 mph, which equates to 5.28 feet/hour (unless THEY'VE rounded too ... but the AMA and FIA may use differing measurement standards.).
centerpunch   August 11, 2014 08:09 AM
Nice, but the AMA did the math wrong again, should be 184.084. Quite logically, FIA rules average the times of the 2 runs, not the speeds. In this case it's not much, but in some cases there could be a big difference. To see how this works, take an extreme case of one run at 120 mph and the return at 180 mph. The average of the speeds is 150 mph, but the real average of the vehicle's speed over those 2 miles (calculated using the times), is only 144 mph.