The lost images of Steve McQueen

In Lord Drake Kustoms we are fans of Steve McQueen. There has been no other actor in Hollywood who better embodies that love for the engine. He said on many occasions that he did not know if he was a competing actor or a acting pilot.

The fact is that Steve McQueen owes scenes that are already mythical in the history of cinema and motorcycling. That is the case of the famous final scene of The Great Escape, where he tries to escape with a Triumph (actually camouflaged as a German motorcycle of the time).

Final scene of “The Great Escape”

It was precisely during the filming of this film in the Bavarian region of Germany, when the causes for which, two years later in 1964, Steve McQueen and a group of friends participated in a motorcycle race in the German Democratic Republic.

The race in East Germany

Bud Ekins was a great film specialist and a great friend of Steve McQueen. They met when the famous actor moved to live in Hollywood. Ekins then had a small mechanical workshop in the San Fernando Valley, where he rented motorcycles to film studios.

Steve McQueen had him double for the most dangerous action scenes in many of his films. For example, Bud Ekins is in charge of making the jumps between the fences in the previous scene of The Great Escape.

It was during filming of that scene in the fall of 1962, when Ekins obtained permission to participate in the ISDT, a race organized in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, very close to Munich. In that race, Bud won his first gold medal.

When he returned to the shooting set, he told his friend Steve McQueen his exploits during the race and he was impressed. That was when they decided to set up an American team for the next race.

This team materialized two years later, in 1964. It was during the 39th edition of the International Six Days of Trials, held from September 7 to 12 in Erfurt, in East Germany.

The North American team was formed by Bud Ekins, Steve McQueen himself, Cliff Coleman and Dave Ekins (Bud’s brother). John Steen completed the group as a replacement pilot.

Steve McQueen racing at 1964 ISDT
Steve McQueen with number 278 competing in the Erfurt ISDT in 1964

They brought the Triumphs from England, scrambler models adapted for that kind of motocross Olympiad.

The weather was very bad, with a lot of rain and cold. A very different environment than this team normally enjoyed in California. Nevertheless, the first two days of the championship managed to finish all their careers.

The third day, despite an improvement in time, was fatal for Bud Ekins and Steve McQueen, both had to leave. Ekins for breaking his ankle when he hit a rock and McQueen for smashing the front tire with another crash.

Coleman and Dave Ekins had more luck and managed to finish the race with a gold medal each.

Steve McQueen’s discovered photos.

This famous motorcycle race was widely documented in its day, especially by the French photographer François Gragnon and also by Lynn Wineland, one of the most famous racing photographers.

Recently, and through a German collector, new photographs of that event have been found. The photographer’s name is unfortunately unknown, but these images help us get a better idea of those days.

In its latest issue, the French magazine Cafe Racer on the world of custom motorcycle, has published a special report on Steve McQueen. In this dossier he develops several related articles and the publication of these anonymous photos.

Some of the unseen images published by the French magazine Cafe Racer

Our tribute to Steve McQueen

As we talked at the beginning, we are big fans of Steve McQueen. A few years ago we made a custom motorcycle tribute to his figure. For this we rely on his film about Le Mans.

In this film he was driving a Porche 917 K with the number 20. We wanted to pay tribute to him with a Harley Sportster converted to Cafe Racer. His name: Racing is Life.

"Racing is Life" y el Porche 911
“Racing is Life” next to Porche 917 piloted Steve McQueen in Le Mans.

This name is based on one of the most famous phrases of that movie: “Racing is life … anything that happens before or after is just waiting”.


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