GRR

The Britten V1000 is a hand-crafted work of art

15th August 2018
Andrew Willis

Say hello to one of the world’s most innovative and original motorcycles ever created – the completely hand-built Britten V1000. Only 10 of these rare unicorns made it out of a small workshop in New Zealand in the mid-’90s, and here at the Goodwood Festival of Speed presented by Mastercard, we’re lucky enough to have one of them.  

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Designed and built by mechanical engineer John Britten and a merry band of mates in Christchurch, production started on the V1000 in 1991 and came to an end in 1998. Sadly, the brilliant John would pass away in 1995, and as per his wishes, he only wanted 10 of these elaborate and precious bikes to be built. 

In those seven short years, the 10 bikes racked-up several international race wins, and world speed records, taking the factory teams and engineers by complete surprise. Notable racing successes include a 2nd and 3rd at the 1991 Battle of the Twins in Daytona, a 1st place BOTT finish in Assen, and in 1994 a 1st place BOTT finish in Daytona followed by a 1st and 2nd in the New Zealand National Championships.

The V1000s would put their name to the fastest top speed at the Isle of Man TT, set the world flying mile record (1000cc and under) at 188.09mph, the world standing start quarter-mile record (134.61mph), the world standing start mile record (213.51mph) and the world standing start kilometre record (186.24mph), all set in 1993.

That’s a remarkable CV for a motorcycle that was, we repeat, built by hand in a shed. Even the world-beating engine, a 999cc water-cooled, fuel-injected, 4-stroke V-Twin, was built there.

Looking at Number 7 of the Britton bikes today here at FOS, it’s still a stunner 25 years later. The whole bike is a genuine work of art, and the greatest epitaph an engineer could ever dream of. It looks modern, innovative, different, and the bike fans are out on mass to have a closer look as the bike returns from its first run up the Goodwood hill.

The V1000 is being Ridden and looked after at FOS by Chuck HuneyCutt from the Barber Motor Museum, who have travelled all the way from Birmingham Alabama to be here this weekend. Straight off the bike, Chuck pulls up a chair and runs us over the particulars. 

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“Well… it’s a very special bike. The museum brought it brand new from Britten in 1994, and it’s never been raced. Mr Barber is a giant collector, but at the time in the ’90s, he had a vintage race team which I rode for. We went to New Zealand one year to compete at the Pukekohe classic race, and the Britten guys were there. They did demonstrations and got us to ride the bike. One thing led to another and then Mr Barber decided we had to have one.”

It was a smart investment, and the now priceless bike looks immaculate while the pipes pop and tick as its 170bhp producing engine cools down after a blast in the Goodwood sunshine.

“I’ve never ridden a GP bike, but I hear it is very close to how they behave and handle. It’s very nice to ride. Its V-Twin so it has tons of torque. Considering it’s a homemade motorcycle, it is very, very, very good.”

Not one to overstate things, the humble Chuck is calmness personified, which is impressive, considering what he is riding.

“Most of the body is carbon fibre, and I hear that doesn’t crash very well,” he says with a wry smile. “They just turn to powder, so that’s the biggest worry. Once those wheels start rolling though, the nerves go away. It’s just a lot of fun.”

We believe him too, because the Britten V1000 is a lot of fun just to look at, it’s a privilege in fact, so god knows what it feels like to be sat on the thing.

Photography by James Lynch

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