The Steve McQueen bike built for the film "The Great Escape" was a 1962 Triumph TR6 Trophy with a 1957 fork. Two Triumphs were modified, one having a full a width front brake & the other the standard half-brake, and both having the normal British full valance front fender that was highly unpopular in the U.S.at the time. Additionally, the bike that did the jump by stuntman Bud Ekins had stronger springs & the battery removed for weight savings. Due to insurance issues, McQueen was not allowed to jump, although probably quite capable, due to his extensive motocross experience. Both bikes were modified in California & brought to Germany for filming, then sold off later in the U.S. after the film.
After three vintage BMW's, I've decided to build a replica of the movie bike, so the research is interesting. The company Ace Classics in London is assembling the bike from parts, so it will be a near perfect copy, with a ground up overhaul of everything. Duplicating the color is difficult, as it did not match any WH color. In the film, you'll see the proper grey on the German bikes, but a black-green on the McQueen Triumph. Also, the front number plate is English, repainted to look German, as it's smaller. With the matt black-green, I'm happy I'll have an interesting bike that I don't need to polish. In June, the annual German Triumph meet is just down the road from where I live, so I'm sure this will be an interesting addition.
by Steve Whelan
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