Jonny Munn

Strip scorcher

Old Bike Australasia - - CONTENTS - Story Jim Scaysbrook Pho­tos Jon Munn ar­chives

Talk to Jonny Munn at his well-es­tab­lished clas­sic bike out­let Clas­sic Style Aus­tralia in the outer Mel­bourne sub­urb of Seaford, and you’d never guess that this qui­etly spo­ken man has spent a good pro­por­tion of his life blast­ing 450 horse­power nitro-fu­elled drag bikes down quar­ter mile strips, reach­ing the very pin­na­cle of his game in the process.

Al­though he has a Bri­tish ac­cent, Jon was born in Mel­bourne. His fa­ther was in the RAF and with his wife, came to Aus­tralia post war. In 1956, the fam­ily, in­clud­ing young Jon, moved back to Eng­land where he be­gan play­ing around on push­bikes be­fore ac­quir­ing a 150cc James Cadet for just thirty shillings. “I pushed it home be­cause I was too young to ride on the road, but as there was a large corn­field near us, I was able to tear around that when it wasn’t un­der crop. As soon as I got on a mo­tor bike, I was fin­ished; at school all I wanted to think about was bikes,” he says with ob­vi­ous con­vic­tion. Even be­fore he had reached his teens he was buy­ing and sell­ing the odd mo­tor­cy­cle, and by age 14 had an old 500 Match­less that he stripped to ride in lo­cal scram­bles. When he was fi­nally of le­gal age to ride on the road, a BSA Ban­tam filled the role. As things hap­pen, Jon re­turned to Aus­tralia in 1966, and landed a job with the Na­tional Bank. Be­fore long he re­ceived a trans­fer – back to Eng­land, where he was sta­tioned in the Lon­don branch. But a fi­nan­cial ser­vices ca­reer was not for Jon, and he quit the bank and went to col­lege, where he stud­ied en­gi­neer­ing. Life con­tin­ued on in a nor­mal sort of way un­til one ‚

night, at a Lon­don party, his friends de­cided that they would all go to the Santa Pod drag races in the Eng­lish Mid­lands the fol­low­ing day. “The mo­ment I saw su­per­charged bikes in a real power sport I was hooked, and I just had to get into it. I got hold of an old Tri­umph Thun­der­bird en­gine and bought a frame from side­car racer Pip Har­ris, and begged, bor­rowed or stole every­thing else to get it go­ing. I got it on track for two hun­dred quid.”

Jon’s first sea­son on the strips was 1972, when he com­peted in the Mid­dlebike class. De­spite the Tri­umph’s mod­est state of tune, he was soon get­ting into the 11 sec­ond bracket, but he wanted more. “I sold the en­gine and grafted in a 750 Com­mando which I ran on carbs first, then fuel-in­jected with Hil­born in­jec­tors. It was good for low 10 sec­ond passes at around 225 km/h. I reck­oned that if one en­gine was good, two would be bet­ter, so with a bit of in­spi­ra­tion from Tom Chris­tensen’s dou­ble Nor­ton “Hog Slayer” and a lot of help from John Baker, who was chief de­vel­op­ment en­gi­neer at Nor­ton, the new ma­chine be­came a reg­u­lar winner and was the quick­est un-blown Bri­tish-en­gined bike at 9 sec­onds.” Jon and the twin Nor­ton be­came 1978 Bri­tish Su­per­bike Cham­pi­ons, but at the end of the year he was forced to stop rid­ing in or­der to buy a house. For­tu­nately for him, his close friend John Hobbs, one of the top men in the top end of the sport on his twin en­gine ‘Hob­bit’ also de­cided to re­tire and of­fered Jon a part­ner­ship deal to take over the seat. That was the break he needed and Jon and the Hob­bit be­came the class act in Europe, amass­ing ti­tles like the 1980 World Fi­nals, Bri­tish Su­per­bike Cham­pi­onship, Bri­tish Drag Bike Cham­pi­onship and Mo­tor­cy­cle Drag Racer of the Year. Mind you, the in­tro­duc­tion to such a ti­tanic mo­tor­cy­cle was not with­out its dra­mas. On his very first ride, the Hob­bit got into a vi­o­lent 180mph tank-slap­per as he com­pleted his heat, which he won to put him into the fi­nal against flam­boy­ant Dutch­man Henk Vink on his 2400cc Kawasaki ‘Big Spender”. “It was the near­est I ever came to crash­ing,” he says, but soon af­ter he was back on the line for the run against Vink, los­ing by just 0.32 sec­onds. How­ever the per­form- ance against the es­tab­lished star with his mega bud­gets had Jon ac­claimed as the com­ing man in the sport – a pre­dic­tion he im­me­di­ately vindi­cated. In its ul­ti­mate form, the Hob­bit ran twin 850cc Wes­lake en­gines, each fed by a Shor­rock su­per­charger and 2-inch SU car­bu­ret­tors gulp­ing nitro­meth­ane sup­plied to the carbs by a Hil­born fuel pump. De­spite pok­ing out around 450 horse­power in usual trim, Munn says the unit was very un­der­stressed and com­pletely re­li­able, and pro­vided him with his quick­est-ever stand­ing quar­ter mile – 8.02 sec­onds. When fully dosed up with nitro, he es­ti­mates the power out­put well ex­ceeded 600 hp. In 1989 Jon dis­posed of his UK Kawasaki deal­er­ship and with wife Mag­gie moved back to Mel­bourne, where he ex­er­cised his en­gi­neer­ing skills work­ing on Glenn Se­ton’s Ford Cos­worth Sierra in the ATCC. Af­ter dab­bling in other busi­nesses, he opened Clas­sic Style in 1996, which he de­scribes as “the best job in the world, where you can also play at your hobby.” Clas­sic Style has es­tab­lished it­self as the hot des­ti­na­tion for those look­ing for an his­toric

LEFT Jon Munn, “I have the best job in the world”. ABOVE The rear slick dis­torts as Jon gives the Hob­bit a hand­ful. BELOW RIGHT Jon and crew at his Kawasaki deal­er­ship with the dou­ble-en­gined fuel-in­jected Nor­ton. RIGHT The bug be­gins to bite. A young...

World Ti­tle! Jon and ad­mir­ers af­ter his 1980 win. Jon and the Hob­bit crew at Le Mans, France. Just a sec­tion of the vast stock at Clas­sic Style Aus­tralia. Jon with the sin­gle-en­gined fuel-in­jected Nor­ton.

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