5 amazing Steve McQueen-themed bikes from the same auction

Massive Vegas motorcycle auction offers the chance to own a bike ‘just like Steve’s'

Triumph T120 Bud Ekins

With Christmas just gone and, with it, another chance to see Steve McQueen’s (and stunt buddy Bud Ekins’) most famous movie motorcycle moment of all – that jump in The Great Escape – it’s timely that THIS month offers the year’s biggest opportunity to buy a bike ‘just like Steve’s’. Or Bud’s, for that matter.

The 33rd annual Vintage and Antique Motorcycle Auction organised by Mecum Auctions in Las Vegas, Nevada, has become established as the world’s biggest classic bike auction.

Held this year at the South Point Hotel and Casino it takes place over four full days from January 24-27, traditionally sees the sale of some of the world’s rarest and most valuable machines and this year, with over 1,300 bikes up for grabs, not to mention tons of automobilia, has some truly mouth-watering lots on offer, ranging from the oldest of Harleys, to ex-works racers and one-off customs.

And among this year’s offerings are a variety of bikes that evoke memories of McQueen – and also of Bud Ekins, Steve’s Californian riding buddy and stunt riding body-double who actually did the jump in the 1963 movie. Here are our picks:

1961 Triumph TR6 Trophy – estimate $20,000 - $27,000

Although purporting to be German army bikes in The Great Escape, the machines used were actually lightly modified TR6 Trophy models – the off-road version of Triumph’s then 650 twin as chosen by McQueen and also later used in his – and Ekins’ – entry in the US team’s entry (paid for by McQueen) in the 1964 International Six Days Enduro. The actual bike used in the jump was discovered by Triumph collector Dick Shepherd, restored, and now resides in the museum section of Triumph’s Visitor Centre in Hinckley, but this is probably the next best thing.

1968 Rickman Triumph Metisse 

Although Steve liked his Triumphs, it’s often reported that his favourite off-roader of all was Britain’s Rickmans brothers’ reframed version – the Metisse. In recent years, reformed Metisse Motorcycles built and sold a limited production run of 300 recreated examples using Triumph engines called the Steve McQueen Desert Racer. But this is a genuine 1960’s Rickman version with the correct 650cc TR6C competition engine. McQueen-style dirt bikes don’t get any more authentic.

1971 Husqvarna 400 Cross – estimate $15,000 - $20,000 

Another of Steve’s favoured dirt bikes – one of his chosen pursuits was dune riding or desert racing with Bud and his other biking mates, to the extent of famously financing the legendary 1971 biking documentary On Any Sunday – was Husqvarna’s 400 Cross. The lightweight Swedish two-stroke single was launched in 1969 and helped revolutionise dirt racing in the early 1970s when previously heavier four-strokes had ruled the roost. McQueen was famously pictured riding his 1971 example on the cover of Sports Illustrated magazine the same year. 

In 2022, his example sold at auction for a whopping $186,000. But this one’s just as good and less than a tenth of the price…

1947 Indian Chief – $35,000 - 45,000 

Away from the dirt, among Steve’s favourite road bikes were not Harleys, but from America’s other historic brand, Indian, with a white 1940 Chief being among his most prized possessions and a bike he used right up to his premature death due to cancer in 1980. That bike also eventually went up for auction, selling for $99,450 in 2009. This example is a little later, but typical of the breed and among five examples at the Mecum sale.

2020 Triumph T120 Bonneville ‘Bud Ekins’ – estimate $10-15,000 

Last, but by no means least, this is not strictly speaking a ‘McQueen’ bike at all, nor even a classic one. What we have here is not one but two limited edition specials modern Hinckley Triumph built in 2020 to honour Steve’s riding buddy and Great Escape stuntman, Bud Ekins. 

We’ve featured Bud Ekins before on Visordown, but the commemorative bikes are worth another mention. Available both in 1200cc T120 and 900cc T100 form, both of which are being offered at the Mecum auction and come from the Bud Ekins Family Trust, they’re specially liveried and equipped versions of the standard Bonnevilles. So, if you want a great but modern ride that reminds you of McQueen, there’s probably none better…