Steve McQueen & America Take on the World ISDT • East Germany 1964
The International Six Days Trial is considered the Olympics of Motorcycling ~ and Rightfully So. An Endurance Contest of Six Days’ riding over Extremely Challenging Terrain & Weather by 5-man teams from Many Countries of the World. The Trials are a True Test of Man, Machine, Skill, Endurance and Reliability.
International Six Days Trials
The ISDT was first held in 1913 at Carlisle, England. It has occurred annually, apart from interruptions due to World War I and World War II, at various locations throughout the world. Up until 1973 the contest was always held in Europe. In 1973 it travelled for its first overseas jaunt the United States. Since then it has been outside Europe more frequently: twice in Australia (1992 and 1998), once more in the USA (1994), Brazil (2003), New Zealand in 2006 and Chile in 2007.
The event has attracted national teams from as many as 32 different countries in recent years. Over its long history the rules and conditions have changed to keep in step with the developments in the sport, but it remains a supreme test of rider and machine. Over the six days and upwards of 1250 miles a rider must contend with strict rules about time allowances and restrictions on mechanical replacements, carrying out his or her own track-side repairs. One must not arrive at a Prescribed Checkpoint either too early, nor too late, and doing either necessitates a penalty or deduction of Points from a Total Given at the Outset of the Event. Rider & Machine must carry all requisite spare parts, tools and equipment as required and needed for each day’s ride on their motorcycle. If a Team Member receives Assistance of Any Kind during roadside repair, even as much as being handed a tool by an onlooker or a Sip of Water, that Rider will be Disqualified from the Event. The Remaining Team Members must carry on Without Him.
McQueen & One of the World’s Most Famous Motorcycles • Triumph ISDT TR6SC
In 1964, Iconic Motorcyclist First ~ Steve McQueen~ Actor Second, was chosen along with 4 of the Best American Off-Road Riders of the Day to Represent the United States in the 1964 ISDT in East Germany. His Teammates were Brothers Dave & Bud Ekins from Hollywood, John Steen and Cliff Coleman.
Californians All ~
Bud Ekins • One of the Greatest & Most Famous Motorcyclists ~ Ever
During the late 1950s and early 1960s, Bud Ekins was the undisputed “King of the Desert” and offroad races, with wins at all the major races including the famed Catalina Grand Prix in 1955, where he took almost 10 minutes off the race record time. He won the offroad Big Bear Run in California three times, most memorably in 1959, covering the 153-mile course over half an hour ahead of the second-place rider, despite getting a flat tire and breaking a wheel.
Ekins competed in seven International Six Days Trial (ISDT) events in the 1960s, winning four gold medals and one silver — all on Triumph motorcycles. His Now Revered North Hollywood Shop has long been the California Holy Grail of Moto. He travelled to England prior to the ISDT and prepared the Triumphs for the ISDT alongside the Meriden Factory Techs, 4 650’s and one 500CC. Bud Ekins was also a founder of the famous Baja 1000, making record runs Down the Baja Peninsula-and Back.
In 1962, McQueen asked Bud Ekins to do some stunt riding for the filming of The Great Escape. Ekins was in Germany working on the film, and it was at the end of shooting that he and McQueen came up with what is arguably the Most Famous Motorcycle Stunt of All Time. Ekins – being the Master of All Things Triumph and through his Previous Supreme ISDT Performance was charged with arranging delivery of the 4 Brand New TR6SC and T100SC models collected from the Triumph Factory in Meriden for the ISDT Competition…
Bud Ekins Won 4 Gold Medals and a Silver
in ISDT Competition
According to Dave Ekins, McQueen managed to get Paramount Studios to pay for the trip by hiring his racing teammates as ‘bodyguards’ accompanying Steve to the European premier of his new movie, “Love with the Proper Stranger.” Dave E. won the Bronze Medal in the ISDT riding a much smaller displacement Triumph 500 while his Mates were All Aboard 650’s, and Flailing About at the Finish. Ekins went on to earn a second ISDT gold in Sweden in 1966 riding a Zundapp. He then won the Bronze in the West German ISDT in 1969 despite a broken rear axle.
Dave Ekins rode in 5 ISDTs in total ~ That’s a Lot of Endurance, Reliability & Skill.
Within a Few Short Years the Belgian rider Joel Robert would become World 500cc Motocross Champion- An Absolutely Grueling Sport at That Level ~ Robert was a Completely Dominating Rider. The Sort of Competition the Americans Rode Against. McQueen & Co. were certainly Riding on Par.
For 1964, the ISDT would take place in the Communist Eastern Bloc during the height of the Cold War. On September 5, 1964 in a packed hall in Erfurt, East Germany complete with a large picture of Lenin, McQueen ~ in what has been reported as one of the proudest moments of his life – carried the ‘Stars and Stripes’ for the US team at the opening ceremony…
A TRIP TO EASTERN GERMANY IN 1964 ~
Mr Oriol Puig Bulto, President of the FIM International Technical Panel, was a experienced off-road rider during the Sixties: he took part in nine International Six Days’ Trial events between 1962 and 1970. He was in Erfurt in 1964.
In Erfurt in 1964, I remember well the American team with Steve McQueen, the Ekins brothers and other riders. They had a lot of helpers, press people, cameramen, etc., and many american flags everywhere. They were doing spectacular rides the days prior to the start, going up and down and doing fast side slides with their big Triumph twins. A real show…
I met briefly Steve McQueen and Bud Ekins, they were nice people, very accessible and ready to share experiences and fully enjoy the event. In my opinion, all members of the US Team were good riders, very much used to ride in the desert and in dry terrain but not so much in the muddy sections through the woods and hills of central Europe. Also, they were riding too ‘crazy’ for a six days event, crashing too much. I remember seeing Steve and some other members of the US team riding with torn mudguards and bent handlebars, and also with bruises in their faces. The best known members of the team, Steve McQueen and Bud Ekins had to retire on the third and fourth days after several heavy crashes. But other members got Gold and Silver medals.
I never met again Steve McQueen, but I had the pleasure to meet Bud Ekins in May 2007 at the ‘Legend of the Motorcycle, Concours d’Elegance’ in Half Moon Bay, California, where I was acting as a Judge and Bud was the Honorary Judge. Bud was in serious health condition but we had the opportunity to remember together ‘those old glorious times’, few months before he passed away in October of that year.”
And So it Went ~ Cliff Coleman achieved 3rd place in the 750cc class and Dave Ekins gained 5th place in the 500cc Class that year. Bud Ekins and Steve McQueen both crashed out on the third day, Ekins with a broken ankle. The Steve McQueen bike has been rediscovered and is now owned by Sean & Catherine Kelly of Johnson Motors, a Re-created Apparel Biz in Pasadena, California very much in the Tradition of The Esteemed California Triumph Motorcycle Dealer of the Same Name – that Mssrs. McQueen, The Brothers Ekins, Steen and Coleman frequented in their Days of Glory in 1964 ~
The BadAss California HotRod Boys Took On The World’s Best ~