Top 10 unsung yet iconic motorcycles - SILVER DREAM RACER

Fame, It's a funny old business. You'll find more talented musicians busking on the London Underground than you will at the top of the charts. Here's the motorcycling equivalent

Posted: 25 March 2010
by Stuart Barker

 10 of 11 

Number: 2
Category: Best Contribution to Music (see below)
Claim to fame: Killed David Essex... well sort of.

In 1981, bikes were huge, largely thanks to the efforts of a certain Mr Sheene (no not the furniture polish). So it was inevitable that some movie maker or another would eventually exploit the fact on the silver screen.

The result was either the worst or best bike film ever made, depending on your viewpoint. On the plus side, Silver Dream Racer was like Rocky on two wheels - poor boy takes all the shit then makes good, gets the girl, ya-de-ya. On the downside, the chances of finding a piece of shit bike in your brother's shed then winning the 500cc world championship in one race only to have a fatal tankslapper crossing the finish line are improbable at best.

But that's just what happened in the 1981 movie starring none other than gypsy Seventies pin-up boy David Essex.

Essex himself was only insured to ride the bike at speeds of up to 15mph even though he was a keen biker in real life. But according to former racer and the BBC's current WSB commentator Steve Parrish, the bike wasn't capable of much more anyway. He says: "It was the biggest pile of shit I've ever ridden."

Parrish tested the bike in France because it was actually developed with the aim of racing in real life before the film crew realised its film star potential.

The Silver Dream Machine was actually a Barton, two-stroke, square four cylinder home-brew special and was initially designed for sidecar racing before finding immortality (or infamy, if you prefer) on the big screen. The engine did in fact find its way back into a sidecar when it took third place at the Isle of Man TT in the hands of Nigel Rollinson in the eighties.

Former British champion and ex-Red Bull Ducati team manager Roger Marshall did much of the riding for the film and helped Essex polish up on his 15mph riding technique. Marshall explains in his biography Roger and Out by Keith Martin that he was paid the handsome sum of £200 per day for filming which in 1980 was not to be sniffed at.

Other benefactors were the brothers Harris of Harris Performance who provided endless screens, footpegs and other trinkets to the film company who were trashing stacks of bikes every week for the film's crash sequences. Harris says: "We probably sold more parts those few weeks than we've ever done."

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Some of these on the list are amongst the most famous and lauded bikes ever; hardly unsung heros.

Posted: 19/04/2010 at 19:10

Who wrote this nonsense FFS? They've sold 60 million of them, not 27 and as for an indicated 65mph from a C90 - no chance. Not even if you pushed it off a cliff.

Posted: 08/07/2010 at 19:20

You have some facts wrong on the Brando bike (and Brando), mate. It was a 1950 Thunderbird 6T, the movie came out in 1953. Also, it was Brando's own bike - he could and did ride it quite well himself.

It was Harley-mounted Lee Marvin who couldn't ride when the film was shot -though he learned quickly during filming and went on obtain and race a 200cc Tiger Cub in desert races, which were quite popular at the time.enry

Posted: 03/02/2012 at 18:20

I recently got myself one of these a couple of month ago in June, £650 and looks like new with a minimal amount of rust underneath the bike. Full respray in sky blue, pit bike exhaust getting fitted shortly and it's the one and only bike, I'm now ever going to ride! C90's are basically crap! But their so crap their the most amazing bike out there! I love the look of it, the sound and the style.

Nice reading through this, Mate. :)


Posted: 19/08/2012 at 12:17

You're right... The author has his facts all screwed up...

Posted: 11/08/2013 at 01:21

Wasn't the triumph used in the great escape because it looked like a German DKW not a BM...

Posted: 23/12/2013 at 11:18

I had a C90 in the early 1970's - best bike ever! You couldn't break it by riding it but someone did kill it in the end by dropping a match in the petrol tank :( I even ran from the police on my C90 with a passenger on the back and got away by riding up a narrow track between fields - PC Plod's Escort got stuck in the mud LOL!

Posted: 22/08/2015 at 08:23

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