UC Legend - John Britten

John Britten designed the world-renowned Britten motorcycle, a ground-breaking invention that won races and set numerous speed records on international circuits.

John Britten

John Britten’s exploits and achievements epitomise the entrepreneurial spirit and creative genius of a true visionary. With the drive and determination to succeed against all odds, a continually inventive mind and a magnetism that drew others effortlessly to his cause, he realised more in his short life, than most can only dream of.

A Christchurch inventor and engineer, John Britten’s Cardinal V1000 motorcycle was considered the most influential racing motorcycle of the 1990s, breaking world speed records and astounding the motorcycle world both here and abroad.

He was the original conservationist, recycling, restoring and rebuilding with whatever was at hand, using short-cuts, creativity, resourcefulness, No 8 wire and the help of enthusiastic friends to overcome lack of money or materials.

Whatever he couldn’t find, he would make. If something couldn’t do the job, he would design and build something that would. He turned his talents equally well to architecture, building, engineering and fine art glass sculpture.

John loved Christchurch and was determined to contribute to it. As a property developer his final project for the City before his untimely death in 1995, was a tram station with a stunning glass roof, elegant archwork and indoor gardens. Known today as Cathedral Junction, it is a dramatic tourist attraction at the core of the inner city tramway. 

Technicians in the Mechanical Engineering Department have fond memories of John testing his motorcycle in the College wind tunnels and the UC building previously known as NZi3 which now houses the College of Engineering has been renamed in his honour.

Learn more about John Britten’s life and work