The Great Escape Jump

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The Great Escape Jump

 

Bud’s story- The Filming Of The Great Escape The man who introduced Steve McQueen to off road motorcycles was Bud Ekins. As Bud tells the story, he sort of taught Steve to ride bikes, and when he was offered a part in The Great Escape, Steve persuaded director John Sturgis to write a bike chase into the script. At the same time, Steve insisted that he would only work with his friend, Bud Ekins. Sturgis promised Bud $100.00 a day, including expenses for his work on the film. That was good money then.  A new Triumph 650 would cost $600.00.

The motorcycle chase sequences were being filmed in Fussen, Southern Germany. A German production manager had hired a couple of pre-war German road racers to fill in as German SS Soldiers. Whenever Steve would take off for the chase scenes they couldn’t keep up with him. Steve and Bud even tried using a side car in place of the preferred Triumph 650 but the director wasn’t happy. Those scenes had to be scrapped.

Bud brought Tim Gibbes, the Australian moto-cross champion, on the set. Tim and Bud met up at the ISDT (International Six Day Trials) in Garmisch-Partenkerchen where they were both competing during a break in the filming. It was there that Bud extended the invitation for Tim to join him and help with some of the stunt work.

 

Tim played a Nazi SS Soldier who crashed to the ground after hitting some wire. In the film, Steve killed the Nazi SS Soldier (Tim Gibbes), stripped off his clothes, and stole the German army bike which was actually the Triumph 650 painted and modified overnight for the film. As for the chase sequences, the three racers – Tim, Bud, and Steve – took turns chasing one another as German soldiers. The director was finally happy. The special effects manager worked out the final scene, where Steve has to get through the fence to escape to Switzerland. Bud, Tim, and Steve were left to figure out how to do the jump. Bud recalls: “Tim and I went out early one Sunday with the 650 Triumph we were using that was supposed to be a side-valve Wehrmacht BMW.

 

We laid out the fence a couple of feet high. Then we dug a ramp out with shovels, about nine or ten feet long, and I hit the ramp in third gear at about 50mph and cleared the fence. We dug it out a little more and raised the fence to eight feet and I cleared that too. Then I hit the ramp at 60mph in fourth and jumped 12 feet high and 65 feet down. Then I said to Sturgis: ‘Okay, let’sdo it!” “When I took off, I throttled right back and it was silent. You know, everything was just silent- the whole crew and everything was just silent. And then when I landed they cheered like crazy.

 

They did just onetake and afterwards the assistant director came to me and said, ‘Well, that’s a $1,000.00 jump if I ever saw one.’ I knew nothing about negotiating fees so I said ‘okay’ and that was that. Two days’ work, one jump, and we were finished.” And the rest is history…

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