Nearly 50 years ago, Burt Munro made history by piloting a self-modified 1920 Indian Scout down the Bonneville Salt Flats to establish a record of nearly 184 mph (296 km/h) in the under 1000 cc class. His accomplishment would stand as the fastest recorded time on an Indian and would become the basis for the movie The World's Fastest Indian. In August, Burt Munro's great nephew, Lee Munro will pilot a new purpose-built Indian Scout Streamliner at the Bonneville Salt Flats in honor of the 50th Anniversary of his great uncle's record.
As it turns out, Lee has been the only one in the family to follow in his great uncle's footsteps and pursue anything remotely related to motorcycles. This is his first attempt at racing across the salt, but he's also raced in and won numerous mountain bike events, as well as motorcycle road and street races in his native New Zealand. So, it was only natural for him to be involved in this project, even though the idea wasn't his.
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"My uncle John (Burt's son) called me up the middle of last year to see if I'd be interested in riding an Indian in a speed trial," Lee tells us. "I told him I'd ride anything anywhere as long as it was put together correctly. I didn't think anything more of it until he rang me up again last September and told me it was looking pretty positive and that Indian would be putting it together."
Lee admits to not having much involvement in the build of the new Streamliner, other than giving the design team his measurements so they could set up the bike to fit him.
The actual design of the bike fell to Gary Gray, Vice President - Product Development for Indian Motorcycle, who also headed up the team that designed the FTR750 flat track racer, which is powered by a modified Indian Scout Sixty engine. The Indian Scout Streamliner has its roots in the larger production Scout engine that went from its stock 1130 cc displacement to a rebored 1300 cc, along with other changes.
"We modified the intake, heads, and exhaust to make 165 hp and 110 ft lbs of torque," says Gray. "But the biggest change is the addition of a partially streamlined body. We also lowered the bike, fitting land speed wheels, tires, and safety items to make it safe to ride and capable of reaching speeds close to that of Burt Munro's efforts in 1967."
Gary is quick to point out that there also some big differences between Burt's 1920 Indian and the new Streamliner Lee will race, as well as the amount of time spent to build both. Burt bought the 1920 Indian that year and started modifying it in 1926. Forty-one years and nine attempts later, he would eventually claim three world records, including the one that stands today. Burt also raced with a smaller displacement engine that started out at 600 cc and was eventually bored out to 950 cc.
A team of seven engineers at Indian Motorcycle worked for eight months on the new Streamliner, all of it on their own time. But their approach to building it to go as fast as possible was driven by the same three criteria as Burt Monro's – add horsepower, cut weight, and improve aerodynamics.
Lee Munro says he has been on the bike a number of times to meet the proper requirements laid out by the race organizers that will eventually allow him to race the bike that honors his great uncle.
"To be honest, this couldn't have worked out any better," says Lee. "The bike is an absolute dream to ride, and we've only been a few miles off Burt's record. This is supposed to be a tribute run only, so it's up to Indian to decide if they want to try to break the record this year or wait until next."
Both Gary and Lee say that regardless of what happens this year, they both want to keep at this for years to come. If they do, that means at some point we could see the next world's fastest Indian.
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