NEW 2020 BUD EKINS BONNEVILLE T120 AND T100 SPECIAL EDITIONS
In 2020, Triumph will launch two very special editions of the iconic Bonneville T120 and T100 that celebrate the iconic name and legend of Bud Ekins.
A 1960s motorcycle icon, Bud was a professional Hollywood stuntman, top motocross and desert racer, and the rider who made arguably the most famous motorcycle film jump in history in the WWII film The Great Escape on behalf of his movie star friend and ISDT partner Steve McQueen. These two new beautiful special editions feature a one-off Californian inspired Bud Ekins paint scheme and a range of dedicated special details and touches.
Based on the timeless Bonneville T120 and Bonneville T100, the new for 2020 Bonneville T120 and Bonneville T100 Bud Ekins Special Editions celebrate Bud Ekins, a genuine motorcycle legend. A professional stuntman and top class motocross and desert racer, Bud also ran Triumph's biggest American dealership of the time in Sherman Oaks, California, where he became a close friend and the riding partner of a host of Hollywood stars from Steve McQueen, to Paul Newman and Clint Eastwood.
BUD EKINS – DESERT RACER. STUNT RIDER. GENUINE MOTORCYCLE LEGEND.
Born in Los Angeles in 1930, Bud Ekins learned to ride in the nearby Hollywood Hills, honing his off-road skills long before he could legally ride on the road. Luckily, California was host to a thriving off-road racing fraternity and even by his late teenage years he earned a mighty reputation as one of SoCal’s top motocross and desert racers.
By the time US Triumph superdealer Bill Johnson provided Ekins with a TR5 Trophy, on which he won the Catalina Grand Prix, Ekins knows well that in Triumph he has found a manufacturer that builds the kind of strong, fast and light motorcycles with all the agility, responsiveness and power that he yearns for.
Ekins’ success in the mid-fifties coincided with Triumph’s emergence as a major player in world motorcycling, with both parties playing their roles in re-defining what a motorcycle was capable of. Triumph’s famous managing director and design chief, Edward Turner, continued to develop incredible Triumph twin engine motorcycles which were becoming increasingly powerful, efficient and reliable. Johnny Allen held the 1955 and 1956 motorcycle land speed world records using Triumph factory engines, and Ekins was forging a lasting alliance with Triumph motorcycles that would ultimately see him regarded as America’s top off-road racer and also a celebrated Triumph dealership owner.
In 1956, when Ekins finished 2nd in the 153-mile off-road Californian Big Bear Motorcycle Run, the first-, second- and third-placed riders were all on Triumph TR6 Trophy motorcycles. Triumph’s racing domination was such that when Ekins won the same race the next year, 20 of the top 25 finishers were all on Triumphs.
TOP US DEALERSHIP
Shrewdly understanding the massive potential and performance superiority of Triumph motorcycles in the context of an emerging popularity for the more reliable, lightweight and powerful British bikes, Ekins’ racing successes led him to open a Triumph dealership in North Hollywood.
It quickly became a magnet for many young up-and-coming movie actors including Paul Newman, Clint Eastwood and Steve McQueen. Ekins lived and breathed Triumph motorcycles and selling them seemed to come naturally, leading to considerable business success to go with his considerable racing achievements.
One local motorcycle enthusiast at that time was Hollywood’s legend Steve McQueen. His favourite early bike was his TR5 Trophy, serviced by none other than Ekins’ dealership where the pair struck up an instant rapport. Ekins introduced McQueen to the burgeoning Californian desert racing scene and McQueen was instantly hooked on this exciting underground movement, spending as much time as he could either hooning across the dunes or just enjoying the anonymous normality of passing time with Ekins and his riding buddies back at the dealership.
In spite of the demands of running a successful Triumph dealership, Ekins was still racing, successfully competing in several off-road races including the Hare and Hound, Mint 400 and Baja 1000 (which he helped establish). McQueen often joined him to race, often using another name to withhold his identity to organisers and other competitors. He was a fast learner and a fast rider, and as Ekins was such a highly regarded rider who had previously represented the US in the incredibly high profile International Six Days Trial, regarded as the Olympics of motorcycling, he facilitated McQueen’s famous entry to ride for the US team in the 1964 East German ISDT – both on Triumphs. Ekins would go on to win an impressive four ISDT Gold Medals in just seven years.
THE GREAT ESCAPE
In autumn 1962, McQueen was preparing to fly to Europe for filming what would become one of the following year’s highest grossing movies, The Great Escape. McQueen pushed for motorcycle stunt riding in the film and recommended his good friend Bud Ekins to the producers. Ekins was employed on a four-month contract, though it took far less than that for McQueen (with Ekins’ help) to conceive of and rewrite the dramatic highlight to his character’s storyline.
McQueen’s character, Captain Virgil Hilts has escaped a prisoner of war camp, commandeered a bike, and is being chased through stunning meadows in an attempt to locate the Swiss border. As enemy soldiers close in, Hilts must desperately make a spectacular motorcycle jump over a high barbed wire fence, and thereafter reach the relative safety of neutral Switzerland.
Between them, using small trial and error practice jumps, McQueen and Ekins worked out the capabilities of their favourite off-road choice, a 650cc Triumph TR6 Trophy, to squeeze maximum dramatic effect from the scene. They calculated that an 80mph run-up was required to clear a raised twelve-foot barbed-wire fence onto an inclined landing area around 60ft away. All on grass. McQueen was sensibly prevented, by the movie’s insurers from performing the stunt himself, much to his frustration, so Ekins stepped in.
The jump is one of the most iconic moments in Hollywood movie history which still lives on in this way today. In 1962 a TR6 Trophy would redline at 6,000rpm with peak power at around 42bhp, but the powerful Triumph engine’s responsiveness and the torque from the parallel twin made it McQueen and Ekins’s first choice, and the restored bike on which Ekins successfully completed the jump as seen in the movie is currently on show at Triumph Motorcycles’ Factory Visitor Experience at Hinckley, which is open free of charge to the public.
HOLLYWOOD STUNT RIDER
Bud Ekins’ racing success and friendships opened up a new career path. As ‘that jump’ gained distinction as the most famous motorcycle stunt ever seen in a movie, the demand for Ekins as a stunt rider increased. Considered one of the best in Hollywood, he’d continued performing movie stunts for the next 30 years or so, happily returning to continue his dealership business in between filming responsibilities.