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|Born||May 11, 1930
|Died||October 6, 2007 (aged 77)
Los Angeles, California
Life and career
Born James Sherwin Ekins in Hollywood, California, he is known to most as the actor who jumped the fence on a disguised Triumph TR6 Trophy 650cc motorcycle in The Great Escape, and one of the stuntmen who drove the Ford Mustang 390 GT in Bullitt. He also coordinated the stunts for the popular 1970s motorcycle cop show CHiPs.
For years, movie fans believed that the star Steve McQueen made the big barbed-wire fence jump at the finale of The Great Escape but the stunt was actually performed by Ekins. Although McQueen undertook the rest of the bike work in the film, the film's producers were too nervous to allow him to make the iconic jump himself. Five years later, McQueen was given a late call to the Bullitt set one day, and found Ekins with his hair sprayed blond performing the most dangerous stunts around the streets of San Francisco. McQueen then shouted "you did it to me again!" referring to the earlier scene-stealing from The Great Escape. Ekins regularly contributed to documentaries and biographies on Steve McQueen with some authority, given their close friendship until the actor's death in 1980.
After a successful foray into British motorcycle sport, upon his return stateside, Ekins ran a very successful Triumph dealership for many years, counting many Hollywood stars as clients. Eventually, and to his stated regret, Ekins switched to selling Hondas.
Honors and competition success
He rode a 650cc Triumph TR6 Trophy as did Steve McQueen in the USA International Six Day Trial team for 1964 held in East Germany. The team, mounted on Triumphs they personally collected from the Meriden factory, also included his brother Dave Ekins, who rode a 500cc Triumph T100 Tiger, winning, along with teammate Cliff Coleman, a gold medal in the process.
He received a gold medal at the 1962 International Six Days Trials in East Germany, and was part of the US ISDT team of 1964 with John Steen, Cliff Coleman, Dave Ekins, and Steve McQueen. In 1965, again on Triumphs, the team competed at the ISDT on the Isle of Man, McQueen being replaced by Ed Kretz, Jr.
Other race success included winning the Big Bear Hare & Hound desert race three times, the Catalina Grand Prix, and winning Southern California's AMA District 37 Number One Plate seven times.
In addition to motorcycle racing, Ekins was active in off-road truck racing. He participated in most of the early off-road racing events including the Mint 400 and Stardust 7-11 in Las Vegas, Nevada. He notably raced Vic Hickey's prototype "Hurst Baja Boot" alongside Steve McQueen in the inaugural Baja 500 in 1969 and subsequently won overall.
Filmography and television stunt work
- The Ransom of Red Chief (1998)
- Extreme Justice (1993)
- Black Moon Rising (1986)
- City Heat (1984)
- Jekyll and Hyde... Together Again (1982)
- Megaforce (1982)
- The Blues Brothers (1980)
- 1941 (1979)
- Fast Charlie... the Moonbeam Rider (1979)
- Movie Movie (1978)
- Animal House (1978)
- Return from Witch Mountain (1978)
- Sorcerer (1977)
- Scorchy (1976)
- Dixie Dynamite (1976) - film also features McQueen in an uncrediated stunt role
- Death Scream (1975)
- Race with the Devil (1975)
- The Front Page (1974)
- The Towering Inferno (1974)
- Earthquake (1974) (stunts)
- Electra Glide in Blue (1973)
- The Thing with Two Heads (1972)
- Diamonds Are Forever (1971)
- Chrome and Hot Leather (1971)
- Flap (1970)
- Bullitt (1968)
- Speedway (1968)
- The Cincinnati Kid (1965)
- The Great Escape (1963)
- Then Came Bronson (1969 film entitled "And Then Came Bronson" and 1969-70 TV Series)
Previously a Triumph Motorcycles dealer, Ekins occasionally restored old British motorbikes for movie stars. He cited becoming a Honda dealer as the one thing he would change from his past.
Throughout the 1990s Ekins was on screen in movies and TV as a character actor, and can be seen in films such as Pacific Heights, Mac and Me, The Karate Kid series, The Specialist (1994), and Vegas Vacation (1997).
- Peter Starr (January–February 2008). "Legendary Stuntman Bud Ekins Makes His Final Jump". Motorcycle Classics. Retrieved 2009-08-10.
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