You know the scene in the film ... the one where Steve McQueen jumps a Triumph over a barb-wire fence ... The Great Escape, it was called, 1963 the year. Forget the fact that racer-turned-stuntman Bud Ekins actually made the 60-foot leap for the camera--McQueen also attempted it but crashed, the story goes. That one feat made Triumph motorcycles cool.
McQueen may be dead and buried, but his legend lives on in the 2006 Triumph Bonneville Scrambler. Powered by the 865cc Twin from the current Thruxton and T100 Bonneville models, the Scrambler pays homage to the desert sleds that ruled California off-road racing in the '60s, and which were the only feasible option for the aforementioned stunt. Styled to resemble a TR6C with its authentic accordion fork boots, rubber tank guards and twin high-pipes, it comes in a pair of classic two-tone paint schemes: the red/white shown here or blue/white. Fittingly, the options list includes many of the period accessories that racers installed back in the day: headlight grille, crossbraced handlebar, skid plate, number plates and solo seat, as well as a tachometer and luggage rack--not coincidentally, the parts shown on the bike in the photos.
Steve McQueen, photographed on a Triumph TR6C during the 1964 ISDT in East Germany, as rec
True to the era, the Scrambler rolls on wire-spoke wheels shod with what used to be called universal tires. Knobbies they're not, but then, this is a dirtbike in appearance only. As Triumph Motorcycles of America Vice President of Marketing Todd Andersen says, "The Scrambler has the old desert-racer style, but it's definitely a streetbike with street ergos. It's got that sort of classic retro feel in a modern package."
Scrambler-style motorcycles were commonplace in the 1960s and '70s, with companies such as Ducati, Honda and Yamaha joining Triumph in offering what were essentially the predecessors to today's dual-purpose bikes. But since then the genre has spun off into Paris-to-Dakar Rally-inspired adventure-tourers and ever more dirt-worthy dual-sports. And while there has been a lot of speculation about scramblers recently--defunct French firm Voxan showed a promising prototype a few years ago, and ongoing rumors suggest Ducati has one in the works--we have yet to see the expected resurgence. This Triumph may be just the machine to kickstart the category.
Though the idea for the Scrambler came from America, it was warmly embraced by the brass in England. "It's a natural evolution of the Bonneville line," says Andersen. "First we had the Bonneville, then two years ago we brought out the Thruxton caf-racer, and now this."
The Bonneville in all its iterations has been a perennial best-seller in America, and Andersen expects that trend to continue with the Scrambler. "The Rocket III is our best-selling single model, but if you added all the Bonnevilles together, they'd probably surpass that. The Scrambler should sell very well here, and also in Italy and France, where it will give buyers an alternative to the Ducati Monster 620, which sells like popcorn overseas."
Helping that cause will be the Scrambler's reasonable $7999 price tag, made possible both by the fact that the British brand's pricing isn't affected by the runaway dollar-to-euro exchange rate, and by what Andersen terms "efficient manufacturing."
As for those other intriguing digits--the "278" on the show bike's numberplates--that's the number McQueen wore when he competed in the 1964 International Six-Day Trials. So we have continuity, as they say in filmmaking--unlike the scene in The Great Escape where the German sidecar suddenly switches sides.Hollywood ...
Of Hogs and Ducs
The year 2006 marks the 35th anniversary of the Harley-Davidson FX Super Glide, which started the factory-custom revolution way back in 1971. Designed by styling guru Willie G. Davidson, the FX is being reprised this year as the FXDI35 35th Anniversary Super Glide (top). The look is faithful to the original with red/white/blue paint incorporating the classic #1 logo, but fortunately not the controversial boat-tail rear fender. Like all 2006 Dyna models, it features the new Cruise Drive six-speed transmission, lighter clutch-lever pull, revised frame geometry and a 49mm fork. It's a limited-edition model; only 3500 will be produced with an MSRP of $16,795.
The Super Glide is one of six new models introduced at Harley's 2006 dealer show in Denver this past July. The others are the $15,495 VRSCR Street Rod tested in our March issue; the $14,995 VRSCD Night Rod tested in our September issue; the $13,195 FXDBI Dyna Street Bob; the re-introduced $15,495 FLST/ I Heritage Softail; and the $17,795 FLXH/ I Street Glide "un-dresser." Those prices are for black paint; add a few hundred dollars for other colors.
Next year is Harley's 103rd birthday, so maybe it's fitting there are two limited-production CVO models with 103 cubic-inch (1690cc) engines: the $31,995 FLHTCUSE Screamin' Eagle Ultra Classic Electra Glide and $28,495 FLSTFSE Screamin' Eagle Fat Boy (middle), the latter with a 200mm-wide rear tire. Talk about having reason to celebrate ...
Ducati goes big
Ducati North America (DNA to insiders) held its 2006 dealer meeting in Chicago in August, and announced two new models. Well, three actually, but only two that we're allowed to tell you about now. First is a 992cc version of the acclaimed S2R (bottom), powered by the air-cooled, two-valve-per-cylinder Dual Spark engine first seen in the Multistrada 1000 DS. It will retail for $9995. Second is an ST3S-ABS with a liquid-cooled, three-valve-per-cylinder engine, hlins suspension and--you guessed it--anti-lock brakes. It will replace the four-valve ST4S-ABS in the 2006 lineup and sell for $14,495.
Far be it from us to break an embargo and tell you about the secret bike, which will make its official debut at the Milan Show in November. But think about Ducati's practice of mixing and matching motors in its various families, hazard a guess, and you'll probably come close.