GUY MARTIN’S GREAT ESCAPE
Guy Martin sets out to recreate the iconic motorcycle movie stunt at the climax of The Great Escape riding a custom Triumph Scrambler 1200. But unlike Steve McQueen's film character, he’s aiming to go higher and further to successfully clear both fences in one attempt.
Did he make it? Watch Guy Martin’s Great Escape on Boxing Day at 2:50pm on Channel 4 to find out.
PLUS, read on to find out how you could meet one of the stars of the Great Escape movie in person at Triumph’s Factory Visitor Experience!
Released in 1963 with an all-star cast that included Steve McQueen, James Garner, Richard Attenborough and John Leyton, The Great Escape was one of the highest-grossing films of that year and is still one of Hollywood’s most celebrated films.
The movie was based on the true story of the most audacious mass breakout from a German POW camp in World War Two, which saw 76 imprisoned Allied airmen escape the prison camp through a tunnel, and culminated in the lead character making the most memorable motorcycle jump in cinema history.
A custom Triumph Scrambler 1200, four years of planning, and hundreds of practice jumps. Will he make it...?
The Great Escape’s headline star – Hollywood idol Steve McQueen – insisted that the storyline for his character Captain Virgil Hilts be re-written on location to include a bike chase with what was then the leading modern Triumph scrambler and a thrilling jump: an attempt to clear the national border fence while being pursued by German soldiers as part of the film’s gripping finale.
A motorcycle obsessive, McQueen’s bike of choice was a contemporary 650cc Triumph TR6, similar to the bike he famously rode while desert racing in western America. McQueen was forbidden from performing the stunt by the movie’s insurers, so his good friend Bud Ekins made the jump.
The result was one of the most recognisable and iconic motorcycle stunts ever seen on film. But, of course, in the film Hilts only manages to clear the first of two barbed wire fences before being recaptured and so the big question posed by movie lovers for almost 60 years has been... “is it possible to jump both fences”?
Four years in the planning, this compelling new programme has almost become an obsession for Guy Martin; one of television’s most dynamic, unique and popular characters, who put in hours of work and made hundreds of practice jumps in preparation for this attempt.
For maximum authenticity Guy wanted to recreate The Great Escape jump using a Triumph motorcycle in the exact same field that the original jump was filmed and, after months of careful negotiation, the owner of that field, Josef Kern, finally agreed.
This is how Guy found himself attempting to recreate movie history on a grassy field near Füssen right on the Germany/Austrian border on a custom-built Triumph motorcycle. Ahead of him: two imposing 8-foot high fences.
Careful preparation for such a dangerous stunt was essential. Guy consulted Triumph’s special vehicle workshop in Hinckley and worked closely with Triumph chief engineer Stuart Wood to build together two Scrambler 1200 XE motorcycles, each customised with dedicated suspension and unique contemporary green and gold paint scheme by Guy himself; one to jump, and one as a back-up.
While the Scrambler 1200 XE is Triumph’s top-of-the-range category-leading off-road motorcycle, modifications were still required to make it suitable for this jump sequence; including the practical removal of road components, simplification of electronics and uprated suspension and tyres.
A one-off modern Triumph scrambler green paint scheme was selected as a contemporary twist on the British army green paintwork of the original 1963 Triumph TR6 bike ridden by Steve McQueen, and was finished with hand painted gold coach lining.
Supported by Triumph Motorcycles and North One Television, Guy Martin returned to the same Bavarian field in which Bud Ekins performed the most famous motorcycle jump in movie history with an even more ambitious goal.
Guy wanted to succeed where McQueen’s character, Captain Virgil Hilts, ultimately failed. While Hilts only cleared the first fence along the border between Germany and freedom in Switzerland, Guy will attempt to clear both fences... and this is a much bigger and hugely more challenging jump.
The fences are in position. His unique custom-built Triumph 1200 XE Scrambler is stripped-back for action, custom-painted and pinstriped by Guy’s own hand. And Guy has trained for this moment for nearly four years. So how did he do?