23 April 2009

The Great Escape, re-enacted

I was reading an article, sadly no link, in Cycle News about the new "McQueen Replica 650 Triumph Métisse Desert Racer" currently being offered by Métisse Motorcycles in England.

Years ago, the Rickman Métisse was the ne plus ultra of racing conversions. Basically, the Rickman brothers offered it as a chassis kit with motor mounts for whatever kind of engine you wanted to put in it. They would accept almost any suspension and wheels as well. I have an unrestored 21ci (350cc) Triumph Métisse Mk3 myself. "Unrestored" is the kindest term for it I can think of. One'a these days...

"Métisse" is French for "mongrel", by the way, and that's exactly what they were. The Rickmans had a sense of humour.

Anyway, the McQueen Replica sounded kinda interesting, and Cycle News printed out a URL that led me, after several attempts at typing it in wrong, to an article in the TimesOnline, with a video you MUST NOT MISS!!. Turns out them Limeys are good for more than just telling the truth about our politics. Heh.

I didn't know this, but even after 47 years there is a controversy over whether Bud Ekins made the famous jump in The Great Escape on a stock bike or a highly modified one. A "highly modified" Triumph in those days mostly referred to stronger suspension, maybe some gussets so the frame could finish a race all at the same time, and a reliable electrical system, so it sounds kinda silly to me. Ekins said it was a stocker and that's good enough for me. Excerpts:

In stunt-riding circles, the jump is still regarded as one of the most technically skilled — and controversial — performed for the big screen. Controversial because Ekins later claimed it was done on a standard, factory-built Triumph. Some film historians say such a jump could not have been accomplished except by special effects or on a highly modified machine. Forty-six years after The Great Escape was made, The Sunday Times has solved the mystery by reconstructing the jump.

But good though it was, by today’s standards the 1960s Triumph was a clunky old machine and quite unsuitable for jumping — all the more reason to marvel at Ekins’s achievement, if it was genuine. We were about to find out.

And find out they do! Note that the fence is held together with string, designed to fall apart if the rider hits it. The stunt rider's comments about Ekins would not be permitted in the U.S. press. Heh.

The fence Bud jumped over was made out of string with rubber bands for the barbs, not wire as stated in the article. He was fearless, not crazy.

I don't know how to snag the Times video, so please go see it.

Here's a Beeb video that I can show you. I wanted one of these gorgeous machines so bad my tongue got hard, but it went limp again when they got to the bottom line. Drat. I will gladly send my address to anyone who wishes to send me one of these things. Enjoy.

Note that the Métisse rep says you can't ride the machine on the road at the same time the test rider is riding it down the road. Catch me if ya can, coppers! Limey riders are just like American ones. Heh.

Thanks to screamingdj, UK.


Found the Times video at YouTube. Not quite the video quality as the one at the Times but plenty good:

Thanks to DoNotTreadOnMe.

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