Britten Motorcycles

Today in Motorcycle History

John Britten dies at 45

by The Press September 6, 1995.

John Britten, the Christchurch designer and engineer whose motorcycles won him world renown, died yesterday.

Mr Britten, 45, had been suffering from cancer for several months.

In the late 1980s he designed and built a V-twin motorbike in his garage. The bike took racing technology in a new direction and went on to beat the best produced by international motorcycle manufacturers.

The back-yard operation has grown into a small factory employing eight people.

Mr Britten was also active in property development in Christchurch through his Brittco Management company. His latest project, on the site of the former Calter McKay building opposite the Government Building in Worcester Street, has been on hold. Some form of the project is expected to continue.

The former president of Motorcycling New Zealand, Kevin McCleary, yesterday said his friend was a brilliant designer who had the ability to carry out his ideas.

"His brain was always going at 100 miles an hour and the ideas flowed out of him. He also had the ability to turn his ideas into breathing, living things,'' he said.

"The main thing was that he did not copy anybody. He did not get a bike and make it faster, he made a motorbike that went faster." Nobody would ever know what developments could have come from his ideas.

"Hopefully somebody will carry things on," he said.

Andrew Stroud, the motorcycle racer who last month won the individual BEARS championshop on one of Mr Britten's V-twin motorcycles, said Mr Britten was very talented.

"He was practical as well as being artistic, and that is very unusual. Not too many engineering minds are artistic as well."

A spokesman for Britten Motorcycle Company Ltd, Loren Poole, said Mr Britten was a wrold-renowned inventor and a true gentleman. The company would continue, and had several V1000 race bikes under construction.

"John's illness had been a shock to us all. He inspired us all with his brilliance, which attracted talented people to his company who will ensure its success," he said.

Mr Britten is survived by his wife, Kirsteen, and three children. His funeral will be held on Friday at Christchurch Cathedral.


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