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Steve McQueen, Bud Ekins and the Epic Motorcycle Chase From The Great Escape (with video)

Steve McQueen in The Great Escape – screen grab from YouTube video.

The 1963 film The Great Escape is still one of the most popular movies ever. The story centers on Allied soldiers held in a German POW camp during World War II, and planning an escape.

Motorcyclists seeing the film were awed by the riding skills of Steve McQueen, and many (including this author) have the scene where McQueen jumps a fence on his Triumph TR6 Trophy (disguised to look like a German BMW military bike) etched in their minds.

McQueen’s riding is shown in a clip from the film reproduced below. It is worth a few minutes of your time, and shows just how good of a rider McQueen was.

As for the actual jump in the movie, for insurance reasons, it was performed by Bud Ekins, a motorcycle dealer and personal friend of McQueen. Apparently, McQueen did the jump himself off camera … just out of personal pride. There is a web page devoted to discussing the circumstances surrounding the jump sequence.

Also, below is an interview with Ekins about the film.


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27 Comments

  1. I had never seen the movie, but didn’t seem like “A great escape”.. I kept waiting for the big jump to freedom. Those bikes look like a handful to ride, amazing how far the off road bikes have come.

  2. Artem says:

    Judgment at Nuremberg is the movie.

  3. Artem says:

    Watched it for a couple of minutes.
    It is an awfull bull..t

  4. Austin ZZR 1200 says:

    A man’s man for sure…

  5. Martin B says:

    And the film doesn’t add that for most of the actual escapers, the fate was the firing squad, personally ordered by Hitler in a furious rage (his usual mode of decision making). Remind you of anyone?

  6. redbirds says:

    He was a great auto racer also. His race to second place at the Sebring 12 Hour with co-driver Peter Revson was a thriller. They nearly won in a Porsche 908 but were overtaken in the final laps by Mario Andretti in a Ferrari 512. The most exciting race I ever attended.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G1sihpc-oTM

  7. arrowrod says:

    Steve was riding a 120MPH Triumph. The Germans were driving 1939 BMWs. The script called for him to be caught. The script should have shown Ekins jumping both fences, giving the Germans the finger, riding off to have a beer in Switzerland.

    • Dino says:

      Sounds like we need a sequel! I’m down!

    • paul says:

      The script writer knew that the Triumph would have broken down and the trundling BMW R75’s would have caught up to him. So they had to end it with a more dramatic fence jump and barb wire entanglement scene.

  8. Wendy says:

    Thanks for the early morning Steve pick me up. The coolest guy EVER!

  9. EGS says:

    Watched “The Great Escape” the night before this posted. What a great movie and yes, a great scene. I also enjoyed seeing the sidecar guys flying around and the ‘monkey’ trying to keep the 3rd wheel on the ground.

  10. Provologna says:

    Watched Great Escape a few years ago, and loved it, of course most of all the chase scene. Bluray disc > 1080P projector > 92″ perforated retractable screen (for dual use home theater/stereo music system). Dedicated 26 x 16 basement media room w/total light control, pro installed acoustic treatment, award winning speakers with unique radiation pattern I co-developed, custom 200W MOSFET power amp, etc. (The “enhanced” 4k projector I sampled last fall outperforms 1080P by huge margin. A reliable source told me 4k HDR kills regular 4k. NBC recorded the last winter Olympics in 8k.)

    Did you plant your flat panel video display up near the ceiling? Amateurs commonly install flat panel display far too high, above the fireplace being a prime target. Ideal display height = eye level @ total screen height x 1/3 (screen height x 2/3 is above eye level). I can not more highly recommend you lower your too high display to the proper viewing height.

    On a different note, not sure if this is true…a pro plumber with whom I worked told me our beloved screen and motor sports hero’s cancer may have been related to his working on ships while in the Navy, working around a lot of asbestos, etc. RIP dear Steve…

    • Kagato says:

      Prov loves his gear and knows how to set it up! : – ) Dang I’m still running my Panasonic 42″ (ED) plasma. Yamaha receiver with a pair of DCM TimeFrame 600’s. Gave up on the surround sound–just not impressed with it. I did get a 10″ powered Mirage sub–the TF’s just can’t go down as low as the film sound. Thanks for the projection viewing tips!

      McQueen is quite a fella. Read a story years ago about a bike he rode named “The Blob” lol, was part of a disguise so no one would spot him.

    • Delta425 says:

      Steve was a Marine, NOT a sailor.

    • Chase says:

      While the asbestos in the Navy exposure may be true. Do not discount the fact he was virtually a chain smoker. Just look at almost every photo of him. The fact is asbestos can be a contributor, nothing will put you 6ft under like smoking for a lifetime. I was pretty bummed out when he died.

  11. 5229 says:

    Who wants to ride those grassy fields on a modern MX bike?

  12. Chase says:

    McQueen was and remains the coolest most down to earth star from Hollywood. Great guy and was a REAL moto guy till the end. Camped next to him at several offroad races here in Cali.

  13. StromRider says:

    Think Steve is worried about how many inches of travel he has in his forks and shock?

  14. dt 175 says:

    Dirty Harry out-(driving/fighting/shooting) RIDING the special forces-trained cops in “Magnum Force”…

  15. bmbktmracer says:

    But…he got caught… Why doesn’t anyone ever mention “Rambo: First Blood” with the XT250 scene? Now that was cool! Never mind that they dubbed in 2-stroke sound…

    • Provologna says:

      That is so freekin funny when the sound dopes mix in an audio track completely divorced from the image on the screen…

      • Lewis says:

        True, I think the original Terminator had Arnold on a KZ and the sound was a Harley V twin. Only a motorcycle enthusiast would catch it though.