Very few people are as closely associated with a brand like Steve McQueen is to Triumph. But then again, McQueen was so damn cool that he’s essentially the eternal spokesperson for Porsche and Tag Heuer. It’s not that he was just a random super fan of the British motorcycle make and happened to be famous — if you’ve ever seen The Great Escape you know exactly why and how McQueen cemented his relationship with Triumph. The chase scene in which McQueen’s character Virgil Hilts escapes a Nazi POW camp on a Triumph, scrambles across fields and dirt roads and jumps a barbed wire fence while making a run for the Swiss border is the stuff of legend. And now you have the rare chance to see one of the actual 1962 650cc TR6R from the film in person on August 30 at the Concours d’Elégance at Salon Privé.
The TR6R used in the movie lives at the Triumph Factory Visitor Experience at Hinckley in Leicestershire, England, but for the first time since the movie was released, the motorcycle will be on public display. (You might have also noticed that ‘Nazi POW camp’ and ‘1962 650cc TR6R’ don’t exactly line up chronologically. Well, you try to jump a WWII era motorcycle over a six-foot-high barbed wire barricade and see how well it holds together.)
For the stunt, the modern Triumph was aged to look of-the-era and, disappointingly, despite begging the director to do the stunt himself, McQueen was denied. The honor went to stuntman and motorcycle racer Bud Ekins. I can only imagine how frustrating that was for McQueen, seeing as how he was known for his racing habits and Triumph fandom off-screen. Which would also explain how he ripped the bike across those fields like a pro later in the movie.
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