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STEVE McQUEEN’S GREAT ESCAPE TRIUMPH ON STAGE NEXT MONTH

Great Escape jump Triumph 650 TR6 on show at 4K film screening event in London

IT’S PERHAPS one of the most famous motorcycle scenes in movie history – Steve McQueen jumping a fence on a Triumph in WW2 film The Great Escape. It’s right up there with The Wild Oneand Top Gun, and regularly features in most folk’s lists of the best-ever bike action sequences.

And now, the actual Triumph 650 TR6 that McQueen made his famous jump on will make a rare public appearance. The bike is set to appear on stage at an event on March 24th, to commemorate the 75thanniversary of the famous escape by allied air crews from the Stalag Luft 3 prisoner of war camp – the incredible event that the film was based on.

The Great Escape with Dan Snow, at the Hammersmith Eventim Apollo, will feature a screening of the film in 4K ultra-high-definition, along with presentations by Snow and historian Paul Beaver about the actual POW breakout event. Scientist Dr Hugh Hunt will be recreating some of the ingenious improvised equipment used in the escape, and there will be interviews with veterans who were actually there at the time. Finally, a 1940s singing troupe – The D Day Darlings – will be singing wartime hits and, no doubt, leading the audience in a rendition of the iconic theme tune…

McQueen’s bike will be taking centre stage with owner and restorer Dick Shepherd. It’s one of three Triumphs built for the film to impersonate WW2 German machinery. Two bikes were built by American stuntman, (and McQueen’s riding buddy), Bud Ekins in the States, while the actual jump bike was built in the UK by scrambling star Ken Heanes.

They were ridden by McQueen, Ekins and Aussie ISDT competitor Tim Gibbs, during filming in Austria in 1962. After filming, this bike returned to Heanes' shop where it was used as a workshop hack until sold to a Norfolk farmer who used it for rounding up his cattle. On his death the bike passed to his cowman who used it for a while, before unceremoniously dumping it a barn, until it was discovered and rescued by Dick Shepherd 15 years ago.

The bike was in ‘well-used condition’ (to put it mildly), but the restoration made use of nearly all of it; the only major part replaced was the front wheel. Although McQueen wasn't allowed to make the jump in the film due to the risk of damaging himself, he secretly had a go the day before, during an early morning practice session with Ekins. The cheeky monkey.

The event is raising funds for the RAF Benevolent Fund, and tickets are on sale now. www.eventimapollo.com/events/detail/the-great-escape/

 

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