Auckland’s 3rd gift to the world: Number 8 Wire

Kiwis are rightly proud of their make-do ingenuity and flair for self-sufficiency. It is said that a Kiwi can mend or create anything so long as they can lay their hands on a bit of Number 8 wire.

No 8 wire is the wire that was primarily used for fencing wire on New Zealand’s farms, back blocks and homesteads. As one of the most widely available materials in farm stores, agricultural co-ops and old barns the country over, it has assumed the status of a symbol of the nation’s ingenuity.  These days, the term is referenced seemingly everywhere from art competitions to albatross-friendly fishing gear, speeches by ministers to post-modern ironic cartoons on the slacker nature of Aotearoa’s youth.

The human embodiment of this ingenuity, and philosophy if you will, is Burt Munro, the Southlander who took an Indian Scout motorcycle and, over 50 years, tinkered with it in his shed enough to reach 190.07 mph on Bonneville salt flats, the fastest ever officially recorded speed on an Indian motorcycle.  The barrels, flywheels, pistons, cams and followers and lubrication system of that motorcycle had been handcrafted by Munro, as were the hand-carved con-rods, made from a Caterpillar tractor axle. 

This remarkable man was portrayed by Anthony Hopkins in ‘The World’s Fastest Indian‘, a movie that got a 5 minute standing ovation in the one-horse town cinema I saw it in and that will tell you more about New Zealand than a crate full of Rough Guides.

1 Comment so far

  1. Doug (unregistered) on December 13th, 2006 @ 11:44 am

    Sort of the duct tape of New Zealand?

    For those of you who haven’t seen The World’s Fastest Indian, I highly recommend it–whether you are a Kiwi or not. The bonus material on the DVD includes a fascinating documentary on Munro’s achievements.

    Welcome back to the Metroblogging network BNUG, I am a Washington, DC author, and a BNUG too! ;–)



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