One of the most famous motorcycles of all time, the Triumph TR6R ridden by Steve McQueen in The Great Escape, was once used to herd cows.
The fully restored 54-year-old TR6R 650cc twin which has 95% of its original parts is now the centrepiece of the Triumph Factory Visitor Experience (museum) at Hinckley in the UK.
After the film, the now priceless bike was used by a farmer to herd cows and then left stored in a barn for decades.
The 54-year-old motorcycle underwent an intensive, four-week restoration process, meticulously adhering to the bike’s original 1962 specification to preserve a true icon of the silver screen.
The TR6 was ridden by McQueen in the chase scene of the movie, which is ironic as his character steals it from a German soldier, so it should have been a German BMW, not a British Triumph!
It was also the wrong colour as it was painted British Army Green, not German Army Green.
Two other Triumphs prepared for the movie had the correct German Army Grey, but they were not used by McQueen in the chase scenes.
It was also the bike that featured in one of the most famous motorcycle stunts in movie history when it was jumped over a 4m barbed wire fence from Nazi-occupied Austria to neutral Switzerland.
McQueen did his own stunt riding, but did not perform the jump as the film studio’s insurers objected.
The highly skilled off-road racer, who two years later represented American in the International Six Day Trials, insisted he could have performed the stunt.
It is believed the filmed stunt was performed by McQueen’s friend Bud Ekins, although it is believed several stunt riders had a go at the jump. In fact, while he didn’t jump the fence for the cameras, McQueen did jump it after filming was finished.
Ekins asked Triumph dealer and off-road racer Ken Heanes to build the TR6R specifically for the movie.
The jump required the bike to be fitted with have much stronger front forks, which remain alongside the original exhausts and rear tyre – two of the rarest parts still present.
The bike sports key marks and dents from the time of filming, which were left for added authenticity. The original front mud guard has survived following extensive restoration work, while the engine was also completely stripped down and rebuilt.
McQueen’s bike has been loaned back to Triumph by Dick Shepard, one of the world’s foremost Triumph collectors, and leading authority on historic Triumph Motorcycles. He purchased it from a former employee of the farmer, who was given it when his employer died.
Shepard did the majority of the bike’s restoration in his own, purpose-built Triumph workshop, while the paintwork was completed by a specialist.
Other bikes on show at the Triumph Factory Visitor Experience include the very first Triumph model from 1902, the Speed Triple ridden by Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible 2 and the latest Moto2 test race model.
Visitors will also get to see a 1919 Triumph Trusty, which was used during The First World War and a 1959 Bonneville, which was launched as the fastest production road bike in the world at the time.
Other classics include the Hurricane X75, T595 Trident and ‘94 Speed Triple.