The Britten V-1000 Motorbike 

Britten V1000 motorcycle 1992, Britten Motorcycle Company Ltd, Christchurch. Purchased 1995 with New Zealand Lottery Grants Board funds. Te Papa
Britten V1000 motorcycle 1992, Britten Motorcycle Company Ltd, Christchurch. Purchased 1995 with New Zealand Lottery Grants Board funds. Te Papa

Curriculum links

Learning areas

  • Technology
  • Science 

Which strands will it fit with?

  • Nature of Technology, Technological Knowledge
  • Science - Physical World 

Key Competencies

Using language, symbols, and texts, Thinking, Relating to others. 

Levels of achievement

Levels 3-8

Year group

Years 4-13

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Which topics of study can it support?

  • New Zealand Technological Advances
  • Innovation and Invention
  • Famous New Zealanders 

How long might this take?

  • Allow 5-10 minutes.

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Where do I find it?

  • Level 4 by Espresso cafe, opposite main lifts.
  • Lost? Ask a Te Papa Host. 

Why should I take my class to visit this?

  • This collection item is an example of New Zealand’s innovative people or of ‘Kiwi ingenuity’.
  • The Britten bike won many records through innovative design.
  • The Britten bike is recognised by most New Zealanders.
  • The whole class can fit comfortably around the item.

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What is there to do there?

  • Find the innovative designs on this motorbike.
  • Discuss design, innovations, and icons.

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What should I know about this?

  • John Britten started his workshop in his garage.
  • It took almost twelve years to develop the Britten bike.
  • Only ten Britten V-1000 motorbikes have been made
  • Te Papa bought the second bike in 1995.
  • Since 1990, the Britten V-1000 has been placed at the Daytona (United States), Assen (Netherlands), Monza (Italy), and the Brands Hatch Races (Great Britain).
  • Britten motorbikes hold several records for the VIM World Speed Records1994 - Motorcycle 1000cc:
    Flying Mile: 302.705km/h
    Standing Start Quarter Mile: 134.617 km/h
    Standing Start Mile: 213.512 km/h
    Standing Start Kilometre: 186.245 km/h
  • The motorbike has a two-cylinder engine.
  • John Britten made the bike lighter and more streamlined by using carbon fibre and kevlar, which are light, strong materials.
  • The radiator has been moved to under the seat and is fed from ducts, as this reduces wind-resistance. Radiators are usually located at the front of the engine.
  • The front suspension is adjustable as is the radical wishbone shape. This allows for better handling at speed.
  • The engine castings have been made stronger so that they can act as some of the framework of the chassis. This allows the motorbike to be made lighter.
  • The engine is no wider than the width of the tyres. This reduces wind resistance.
  • There is an on-board computer which is used for monitoring six functions on the motorbike. 

Possible topics for discussion

  • What are some other New Zealand world records or New Zealand firsts? (For example, Peter Snell winning the 1960 Olympics 800 metres event in a record 1 minute 46.3 seconds; twenty-eight gliding world records including a flight up to 11,000 metres; Sir Edmund Hillary reaching the top of Everest on 29 May 1953.)
  • Who are some other New Zealand inventors and what did they invent? (For example, Colin Murdoch inventing the disposable syringe in 1956 and William Harrington Atack inventing the referee’s whistle for rugby in 1884.)
  • Can you see how this motorbike is different from other motorbikes? For example, is the seat different from other motorbikes? Are the handlebars different from other motorbikes? Are the tyres different from other motorbikes?
  • What could you invent to get around faster? For example, magic carpet or hovercraft.
  • Comparisons of speed and distance can be made by letting the class arrange themselves in the order of fastest to slowest, according to this list: 
    • a cheetah can run at speeds of 50km/hr
    • a peregrine falcon can dive at speeds of up to 300km/hr
    • a sailfish can swim at speeds of up to 110km/hr
    • a penny farthing can reach speeds of 45km/hr
    • the fastest humans can run at approximately 50km/hr
    • Phar Lap ran 3200 meters in the Melbourne Cup in 3 minutes 27.7 seconds (about 39km/hour)
    • the fastest you can legally drive a car on the road is 100 km/hr.
    • a bumblebee can fly up to 10.3 km/hr
    • a snail travels at up to 400m/hr.
  • Why do you think that the colours are blue and pink? (A theory is that following a holiday to the tropical Pacific, where Britten loved the colours of the fish, he decided to use similar colours on the motorbike.) Do you like these colours for the bike? If you were designing your own bike what colours would you make it and why?
  • Check out the tyres and why do you think they are so flat? This is because they will create the greatest grip at high speeds.
  • What constitutes an icon? Is this item a New Zealand icon? An icon is something that represents a country or culture. (For example, the kiwi is an icon of New Zealand or a bach is an icon of New Zealand’s coastline.)

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Further information

Related objects

  • Phar Lap’s skeleton on Level 4. New Zealand racehorse icon that won many international races. Further information also available in: Icons Ngā Taonga: From the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa. Wellington: Te Papa Press.
  • HQ Holdenby Jeff Thomson on Level 4. New Zealand transport icon.
  • Waka taua named Teremoe on Level 4. Innovative transport of people. Further information also available in: Icons Ngā Taonga: From the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa. Wellington: Te Papa Press. 

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