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Article by Alan Liptrot
When Bud Ekins took the place of Steve McQueen, to jump the wire fence in the film ‘The Great Escape’, he arguably created the most famous motorcycle movie scene of all time, but you will notice that I used the word ‘arguably’, because there are other movies that run this one close. The Great Escape wasn’t a film about motorcycles; it just happened to have the scene that everyone remembers. Interestingly, although McQueen didn’t perform that stunt, it was his idea to include that scene. Both Ekins and McQueen were avid motorcyclists.
In 1969, Dennis Hopper directed and starred alongside Peter Fonda in a film that reverberated far beyond the Movie Theatre. ‘Easy Rider’ was the story of two disillusioned youths who, after collecting the funds from a dope sale in Southern California, set off on a trip across America. The Hydraglides in the film, which were built between 1949 and 1952, were bought at auction for 500 US Dollars, but chopper builders Cliff Vaughs and Ben Hardy transformed the bikes, each one having a back-up to ensure the cameras kept rolling. One of the bikes was wrecked in the final scene while the others were stolen before the significance of movie props was realised. The final campfire scene still had to be shot, hence the absence of the motorcycles, whereas in the previous campfire scenes, the bikes are clearly visible. The wrecked ‘Captain America’ was rebuilt and by Dan Haggerty and became a museum exhibit until it was sold in 2001.