Monday, January 01, 2018

a new to me photo of Burt, and the revelation that a book was made of two months of interviews, which had been lost for the past 3 decades due to being stuffed away in the wrong box during a move, and not being discovered until recently

Neil Birss, as a young journalist in Invercargill with The Southland Daily News and The Southland Times, had taken his typewriter to the garage of Burt Munro

The garage that served as Munro's Invercargill home, during a series of interviews over two months, was the place where Burt told his stories his way.

The interview sessions were never completed when Burt departed for another trip to Bonneville and Birss moved north.

Of course both men had intended to resume the process, but they never got back together.

With a young family and part-time study to contend with, the journalist found his unfinished project slipping from next month to next year to one-of-these-days.

The interviews, all typed out as Munro had spoken, in the first person, were by no means all familiar from the films and books issued in the interim.

They particularly illuminated his early years in the south; visits to Australia in the 1920s and 1950s; details of his trips to not just the US but Mexico, and his adventures with cars and cops and assorted officialdom.

At times Birss found it necessary to augment Munro's accounts with insertions of his own, for correctives reasons or context. Sometimes the combined accounts are collectively better.

Describing a crash at the Invercargill Teretonga circuit in 1959, Munro told of stepping, ["very neatly" he was later assured] off his Velocette after going off the concrete and into a fast speed wobble, doing about 117kmh.

"The moment I jumped, the bike straightened up. It was still full throttle. Nobody saw where it went. They were too busy watching me skidding, rolling, bouncing. Someone reckoned I went 15 feet [4.6m] high in one bounce.

"My mate went to take me to the morgue, then saw me get up on my knees. They took me to the hospital. My clothing, T-shirt, gloves, everything, was torn to shreds.The waistband of my trousers was about all I had left."

Still, "my bash hat never hit the ground".

Yes, well, Birss felt compelled to remind readers of parallel eyewitness accounts, published by Begg, that the bike had leapt 9 metres and the rescuers found Munro, his pudding-basin helmet very much split, lying bloodied and unconscious.

Only after a time did he come around enough to claim: "I beat you buggers."

Collared in the US at Edwards Air Force Base, where he had been hoping for a purely-tourist photo of the glamorous X-15 rocket plane he went from the subject of stern and deeply suspicious interrogation to well-indulged guest, because a lieutenant-colonel had remembered reading about his "motorsickle" in Popular Mechanics.

Other times, sheer luck featured. In one of his forays into Mexico, without a visa, he was pulled over by a cop who examined his licence, issued by the Southland County Council.

Assuming this was the authority governing the Greater Los Angeles area, also known as Southland, the officer let him go.

Munro later learned from his American friends that the confusion mattered. US citizens had the backup of diplomatic representation in Mexico. New Zealanders did not.

Read the book made from the lost interviews, the most thorough and lengthy there ever were of Burt's stories, history, and humor at
or from Target
who both charge around 18 dollars USD, but you can buy it for 11 USD if you go to

thanks Steve!


  1. From this here with some other cool pics and info:

  2. Jesse if you have any youngsters, mine love this book about Burt:
    Some of the illustrations you'll recognise.