Best of Britten

05 Mar 2018

I’ve been wanting to do a post about Britten motorcycles for a while but copyright concerns meant finding an image was a bit problematic. The good folk at Vimeo, however, actively support sharing so I guess it’s okay to use this screenshot of Callum Cooper’s excellent ‘Britten - Return to The Island’ documentary which you’ll find here.

Based, as the title suggests, on the Britten’s return to the Isle of Man for a parade lap in 2013, it’s a quick primer for anyone not already across the Britten story with some insightful personal perspective on the marque and the disastrous 1994 IoM race outing, sound and vision the bike in action, and a marvellous continuous extreme-detail close-up sequence. At a shade over eight minute’s it’s well worth watching, but if you’re headed down the Britten rabbit hole there are a couple of other documentaries you should catch.

‘One Man’s Dream – The Britten Bike Story’ is the ‘official’ DVD produced by Britten Motorcycles and Ruffell Films. Remastered with additional footage, it’s available here (as well as Amazon and good motoring book shops – although stocks do tend to fluctuate) or you can watch the original version on YouTube.

Alternatively (if you find the original DVD’s music and commercial-sounding VO a bit grating) our friends over the ditch at NZ On Screen have an excellent 1994 made-for-TV doco entitled ‘Britten – Backyard Visionary’ which you’ll find here.

If you love the Britten V1000 – and what’s not to love – you’ll love both the films (even if though there’s a lot of duplication), and you’ll probably end up in a bit of a bromance with John Britten. There’s enormous appeal in the whole visionary innovator thing, but even more so when it’s a bloke in a shed pretty much doing it all himself with a few mates.

But before I start to sound like a complete fanboy, the best bits are where this total legend stuffs it all up.

Holding a blowtorch to a piece of ‘revolutionary new’ carbon fibre tube, Britten proclaims it’ll “take any amount of heat” … and then promptly sets fire to it and knocks it onto the garage floor.

Heat treating a crankcase, he whips the casting out of a kiln and into a barrel of water to quench it… then has to rush out to the swimming pool to get more water, returning with a breathless “I can’t believe it, I f*cked it up really badly”.

Kind of reassuring to know that, even while you stand in awe of Britten’s achievements, he still had the occasional self-inflicted garage cock-up like the rest of us.