By Basem Wasef,
His most famous stunt work was on his first job: doubling for Steve McQueen in the climactic motorcycle jump over a high, barbed-wire fence in the 1963 World War II prisoner-of-war movie “The Great Escape.”
This family photo released courtesy of Susan Ekins shows legendary stuntman Bud Ekins, doubling for Steve McQueen in the iconic motorcycle-jump scene in “The Great Escape,” in 1963.
Famed Hollywood stuntman and offroad racer Bud Ekins performed the legendary motorcycle jump in “The Great Escape,” drove the tires off the Mustang GT 390 Fastback in “Bullitt,” and was one of the first Americans to compete in the International Six Days Trial in the 1960s. He passed away of natural causes at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles this past Saturday at the age of 77.
A few months ago, I (Basem Wasef) was fortunate to spend some time interviewing Bud in his Hollywood home while researching my upcoming book. Irascible and opinionated, Bud was everything you’d imagine a motorcycling icon to be; he was never shy about defending or demystifying friends like Steve McQueen and Von Dutch, and loved to talk shop about bikes. Regarding the “Great Escape” days, he said simply, “It’s not like nowadays, it was a completely different era.”
His passing only reinforces that sentiment.
A 1999 inductee of the Motorcycle Hall of Fame, Ekins was one of the first Americans to compete in the World Championship Motocross Grand Prix circuit in Europe during the 1950s. And by the mid-’50s, he was the top scrambles and desert rider in Southern California and had been district champion seven times.
His most prestigious accomplishments on the international level came in the 1960s when he won four gold medals and one silver medal during seven years of competing in the International Six Day Trial (now called the International Six Day Enduro). (In 1964, Ekins, his brother, David, and McQueen were part of the U.S. team.)
Ekins, who owned two motorcycle shops in the San Fernando Valley over the years, also was a founder of the Baja 1000, and in the early ’60s he made record runs down the Baja California peninsula.
He later became one of the country’s leading collectors of vintage and rare motorcycles; at one time his collection included more than 150 motorcycles.
Basem Wasef writes the Your Guide to Motorcycles at About.com