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Triumph tribute a McQueen Special

2012-08-13 07:12

THEN - AND NOW: Steve McQueen before he (didn't) jump the fence and (inset) the modern version almost jumping him.


I’ve a sneaking feeling that deep down most of us would like to own a piece of Hollywood history. Well, now you can, while paying homage to arguably one of the greatest movie actors of all time - Steve McQueen.

Bike specs

The Triumph Motorcycle factory has dedicated its latest model to McQueen… and produced a limited run aptly called the Steve McQueen Bonneville. A few are destined for South Africa – but you gotta be quick to get your order in!


I'm not ashamed to say I’ve seen the movie 'The Great Escape' at least three times – maybe you have, too. Who can forget McQueen’s brave dash for freedom and other bravura motorcycle escapades while trying to escape the Germans over an impossibly high wire fence to neutral Switzerland.

McQueen is dead now but, in co-operation with the Triumph factory in the UK and McQueen’s son Chad, 1100 bikes in memory of the famous actor and avid car and bike collector will be produced. Triumph public relations manager Peter Carleo, said: “We’re very proud of the fact that Steve chose to use and promote Triumph bikes. We've stayed in constant contact with his son and the feedback has been very positive.”

For the record, though McQueen was a genuinely good stunt rider in his own right, it was in fact Bud Ekins, a close friend and Hollywood stunt man, who built the bike seen in 'The Great Escape'. How you disguise a 1961 pre-unit Triumph Trophy has never been easily explained but the visuals are nevertheless superbly done, as is the failed border jump to freedom.

Those blessed with good memories of the movie may well remember an earlier scene of a German soldier being hauled off his bike at speed by a wire stretched across the road. That particular rider was indeed McQueen – but I’m sure the film producers couldn’t have been happy about one of their stars getting up to such dangerous antics!


McQueen and Ekins were big mates on and off the screen and would get together when they could to indulge in their favourite pastime when back home in California: motorcycle collecting. Just a year before McQueen died of cancer he owned 112 different motorcycles; Ekin’s tally was 130!

The 2012 tribute bike seen above has an 865cc, fuel-injected, twin-cylinder engine that's taken its styling cues from McQueen’s TR6 that you’d have seen in the film. Available only in khaki matt green paint, the bike aims to make a statement, voiced by Carleo: “We wanted to stay in touch with our heritage while modernising it. There’s definitely a growing market of buyers across the world craving their old bikes, while new riders want something different and unique."

Not surprisingly there are plenty of other movie stars who enjoy motorcycling: Brad Pitt, Peter Fonda ('Easy Rider'), and John Travolta ('Wild Hogs'), but arguably the biggest bike enthusiast of all time is Tom Cruise – another fan of the Triumph marque, I believe.

Read all about the latest Triumph Trophy coming to South Africa.



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