McQueen’s “Great Escape” Triumph motorcycle roars back into the spotlight

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Steve McQueen in The Great Escape United Artists

Seven months after the automotive world was rocked by the discovery of the 1968 Ford Mustang that Steve McQueen drove in the iconic film Bullitt, another legendary McQueen machine will be featured in the UK’s Salon Privé Concours d’Elégance on Thursday, August 30. And this one has two wheels.

A 1962 650cc Triumph TR6R, one of three used in the filming of 1963’s The Great Escape, will make its first public appearance at the Blenheim Palace along with other “Exceptional Motorbikes” from 1940–79. It will be judged as part of the B Class. Blenheim Palace is in Berkshire Windsor, about 40 kilometers (25 miles) west of London.

The Great Escape, which counted McQueen, James Garner, Charles Bronson, James Coburn, Richard Attenborough, Donald Pleasence, and David McCallum among its stars, is set during World War II. Among the highlights is McQueen’s daring escape from prison on a stolen motorcycle, an escape that included a 65-foot jump over a barbed-wire fence from Germany into neutral Switzerland. McQueen wanted to do the stunt himself, but Bud Elkins ultimately performed the jump. (Elkins later served as McQueen’s double in Bullitt.)

Director-producer John Sturges chose Triumph motorcycles to appear in the film even though they weren’t authentic to WWII, because they had more power and were more nimble than WWII bikes.

In addition to motorcycles, the Salon Privé Concours d’Elégance will feature supercars, hypercars, and classic cars, along with a luxury retail village and exquisite cuisine.

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