#MotorcycleLive 2022 takes place from Saturday 19th November until Sunday 27th November 2022 at the NEC, Birmingham.
This year’s NMM’s Classic Feature will showcase a collection of 10 unique classic motorbikes, and we will be revealing one or two each week in the run up to the event.
Today, we would like to introduce you to the Steve McQueen ‘Great Escape’ Replica – 1961 Triumph T110 650cc
If there’s one film scene which everyone remembers it’s the bike chase in ‘The Great Escape’. After dozens of failed attempts ‘The Cooler King’, played by the inimitable Steve McQueen, finally makes it to within sight of freedom. He roars across the countryside on his stolen ‘BMW’ pursued by a hoard of manic Nazi motorcyclists’ intent on his death.
With no possible escape, great or otherwise, our hero chooses a glorious finale. Winding the bike up to maximum revs, he makes an incredible jump across the 12-foot barbed wire fence. Stuck in No Man’s Land he roars about a bit before crashing into another fence. He’s then led away by the Nazi’s and thrown back into solitary.
It’s brilliant cinema – but the story behind the filming of this scene is an epic in itself. Although McQueen did not jump the fence himself, he was far more than just an actor who could ride motorcycles.
In fact, McQueen was an international quality racer and an avid motorcycle fan. And the man who introduced Steve to motorcycles was Bud Ekins – a legend amongst Californian bike racers.
Bud’s prowess as a rider was matched by his business skills and in 1955 he became a Triumph dealer. In between racing and selling bikes, Bud appeared in over 500o films during 25 years as a stuntman and co-ordinator & happily agreed to do the Great Escape jump for his friend McQueen.
Today, the thought of using a road bike for a film stunt would be unthinkable, but in 1963 the world was a very different place. In many ways it wasn’t so much which bike would Bud Ekins and Steve McQueen use for The Great Escape, but simply that there was only one choice – a Triumph TR6 650cc twin painted in olive drab!
With the demands of the jump, there was no way that the ‘correct’ Wehrmacht BMW’s with their low power flat twin engines and rigid frames could have been up to the job.
Our replica of this most famous Triumph is based around a 1961 Triumph Tiger T110 650cc machine and modified rear frame and has been reproduced as faithfully as possible by the National Motorcycle Museum’s very own restoration team.