Inducted into MNZ Hall of Fame: 2016
They astounded the motorcycle world in 1991 when they came a remarkable second and third against the factory machines of Ducati, Honda, Harley Davidson and others in the Battle of the Twins at Daytona, United States of America.
A remarkable engineer and architectural designer, Britten was in fact dyslexic and had someone read questions and record answers when he sat exams through high school and tertiary education.
His childhood heroes were notable fellow New Zealanders, Richard Pearse (pioneer aviator), Bill Hamilton (father of the jet boat), Bruce McLaren (champion driver and founder of the McLaren Formula One Team) and Burt Munro. In his own short lifetime, Britten was regularly and favourably compared with all of his heroes.
Britten completed a four-year mechanical engineering course at night school before joining ICI as a cadet draughtsman, giving him a wide range of work experience including mould design, pattern design, metal spinning and various mechanical engineering designs.
He travelled to England where he worked for four months with Sir Alexander Gibb & Partners on a highway design linking the M1 motorway to the M4 motorway.
Back in New Zealand he was design engineer for Rowe Engineering, designing off-road equipment and heavy machinery. In 1976, he built glass kilns and went into business as a fine artist, designing and making hand-made glass lighting, before joining the family property management and development business. But his passion for speed was the thing that would make him famous.
Britten worked on motorcycle design for some years, developing innovative methods using composite materials and performance engine designs. He created the Britten Motorcycle Company in 1992 to produce revolutionary machines to his own design, made of light materials and using engines he built himself, which became famous around the world.
The Britten V1000 and Britten V1100 are very rare machines with only a prototype and 10 motorcycles having been constructed.
In 1995, at just 45 years old, John Britten died of cancer. But two weeks before he died, his machines achieved one of their most memorable moments of a brief but glorious racing history — two Britten motorcycles finished first and second in a magnificent BEARS race in the WSBK weekend at Brands Hatch (UK).
John Britten was awarded an FIM Bronze Medal (posthumously) for services to Motorcycling in 1995.