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Posts Tagged ‘Steve McQueen’

mcqueen_metisseStop.  You had me at McQueen!  You didn’t need to remind me of the Triumph 6T engine and desert racing heritage to make me think it’s cool.

I’m talking about the Metisse Desert Racer.   The original Desert Racer was built by actor Steve McQueen and his friend, stuntman Bud Ekins for off-road competition.  The  photo (above) is of a replica. 

As an avid motorcycle enthusiast and product developer McQueen pulled together the first American team in the Olympics of motorcycle racing (International 6 Days Trials) held in East Germany in 1964.  The team consisted of McQueen, Bud Ekins, Dave (Bud’s bother) Ekins and Cliff Coleman.  Dave and Cliff both returned with gold medals.  McQueen continued to race the Triumph Metisse during 1966 and 1967.  The motorbike was originally built in Carswell Oxfordshire.  The distinctive design proved to be very successful and in 1973 the company received the prestigious Queen’s Award to Industry.

Steve McQueen - Metisse Desert Racer

Steve McQueen - Metisse Desert Racer

In 1980 the Rickman brothers ceased motorcycle manufacture. At about that time the original tooling and the remainder of the stock was sold off.  In 1982, Pat French purchased all of the company’s assets.  Production continued until the mid-90’s when the economic recession forced a decrease in production due to lack of demand.

Under license and the endorsement of the McQueen estate, the company will hand-build 300 authentic motorcycles.  The completed bikes use a fully reconditioned period Triumph TR6 engine and faithfully include the ideals employed by McQueen from years ago. They include items like the styled footrests, 35mm Ceriani forks, with seven inches of travel and the yokes are from BSA which is what McQueen preferred as the handlebar position was set behind the steering stem for better control.

It’s great to see the company bring back some of the magic and easy to visualize a clear sunny California morning – a perfect day to go racing in the desert on this bike!

Photos courtesy of Metisse web site and Flickr.

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You see it all the time…companies involved in cross-promotion or product placement deals for television and/or films.  High-tech companies are the worst in pushing products including Apple Computers, which must have a warehouse full of MacBooks for their “hired-out-for-loan” program in exchange for exposure.  From the first Tom Cruise “Mission Impossible to Fox’s “24″, Apple must outspend all other PC companies in product placement and is perhaps more active in this area than any other technology company.  Product placement has become a significant source of revenue for media companies and I would assume that manufactures compensate the producers in some manner.

I think my first exposure to product placement (that I remember) was while watching Steve McQueen steal a Triumph from the Nazis and chasing himself around the fields of Germany in The Great Escape, the finest motorcycle sequence ever filmed, in my humble viewpoint and I didn’t know for years that Bud Ekins made the big jump.

However, after recently seeing “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of Crystal Skull it would seem that Harley-Davidson is joining the product placement cult.  Just like in the movie “Wild Hogs” which had both “product placement” for a physical product as well as self-promotion for a media property (Extreme Makeover – Home Edition),  when Mutt (Shia LaBeouf) speeds through the college campus with Harrison Ford riding “bitch”, it was on a Harley.  By the way I think stunt rider Lee Morrison is one of the best motorcycle riders on the planet! 

But what type motorcycles were they using?  The two-wheeled star of the movie is a 2007 Softail Springer Classic that was modified to look “period correct” — from 50 years ago.  Harley supplied Lucasfilm with the bikes and requested that they be recognizable as a Harley, however, the bike’s builder, Justin Kell, stated that he modeled them to be a postwar Knucklehead and did a lot more than just put 1955-56 tank badges on them.  Modern improvements were necessarily left intact on the motorcycles because the bikes were used to do high-speed stunts in the film.

Because of product placement deals the film had to use new bikes.  A total of five bikes were built for the film, one of which was an effects bike that was destroyed in the course of filming and two of the remaining bikes will be returned to Harley-Davidson, which plans to display them in the new motorcycle museum, opening July 12th in Milwaukee. The remaining two others were purchased by the production company.

The chase scenes move rather fast and many people won’t notice, but astute bikers likely noticed the belt drive in the campus chase scene.  Also the not-so “period correct” bikes had a disc brake on the front wheel, dual throttle cables, a “Twin Cam” engine along with modern grip/hand controls, including a starter button when it was seen being kick-started earlier in the movie.

I wonder where we’ll see Harley placement next?  To me, Wild Hogs and now Indiana Jones is a new high (or new low, depending on your perspective) in marketing strategy. I checked out the movie web site and there are plenty of games, promotions and activities to satisfy the interactive mind – expected for a film such as this. What I was surprised not to find was a tie-in to Harley-Davidson for a ‘Wreck a Hog’ simulation game, since they blatantly promote the destruction of the motorcycle in the film.   

Harley did sink rather low…I found a “Motor Wheels Mutt” licensing deal for a toy tie-in back to Harley on the Burger King site.

 

Train photo courtesy of Lucasfilms.

Motor Wheels Mutt courtesy of Burger King

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