Steve McQueen. Von Dutch. Bud Ekins
Those three names flashed across my brainpan these last few weeks, which might seem curious – I mean, none of the aforementioned gentlemen are still riding on this mortal coil.
The synchronicity’s there though, if you look hard enough. See, I attended a Bonhams & Butterfields auction in Los Angeles at the Petersen Museum, held in conjunction with California Bike Week. The event was every bit as interesting as the two-wheel action taking place on the track that weekend - the Butterfield’s guys consistently showcase topshelf vintage metal.
Among the acres of priceless hardware displayed was one of Steve McQueen’s tricked out desert racers, a 1970 Kawasaki G31 hand painted by Von Dutch (a.ka. Kenny Howard), in true, bold, Kustom Kulture livery.
Seeing any piece of original Von Dutch art (not the hyper-branded t-shirt crap) is worth the price of admission, but gazing at that McQueen Kawasaki served to remind me of another bike he’d been associated with, and a close relative of a model I’ve been road testing for the next issue – a Triumph Scrambler. The Scrambler is loosely based on the old TR6 - the bike, you might recall, McQueen (as Colonel Hilts) sailed
over a barbed wire fence in the classic war epic, The Great Escape.
I saw that movie at least a dozen times growing up, and it had a great deal to do with my future fascination and adulation of two wheelers.
‘Course, I came to find out that the man who flew through the air aboard a motorcycle was Bud Ekins, not Steve McQueen. Ekins, a stuntman extraordinaire, avid racer and AMA Hall of Famer, shuffled off this mortal coil just this last October.
Almost as a final underscore to all these connections, the new Matt Stone book, McQueen's Machines: The Cars and Bikes of a Hollywood Icon (www.motorbooks.com), magically appeared on my desk last week. If you haven’t seen it yet, I urge you to pick it up – it’s a fascinating read about a star who was a true motorcycle rider. Just like the other two guys….