Behind The Scenes On 1972's The Mechanic

A bike fire, a stall on the stunt ramp, and looking death in the eye

Stuntmen Of The Mechanic, 1972

H: A stunt rider approaches the ramp with a dummy in front of him.
V: A cable yanks the rider off of the motorcycle just in time, leaving the dummy to ride off into oblivion.
K: The Husqvarna and dummy sail off of the ramp while the cable yanks the rider to safety.
M: The dummy and his Husky fall to their doom.
Motorcyclist Archives

Two Husqvarna 400s wheelie through a meadow, the lead bike ridden in a panic as a killer on the second reels it in. They crest a ridge. The bike ridden by the killer washes out and he tumbles to the ground. The pursued goes hurtling off a cliff. Stuntman Alan Gibbs is yanked off the motorcycle, just in time. It plunges off the precipice without him, a mannequin sitting in his place until the bike hits the ground and a napalm bomb attached to the Husky goes off.

Cycle Magazine was there watching as legendary desert racer J.N. Roberts and stunt coordinator Alan Gibbs tested fate—twice—to get the shot. They survived a bike fire and a stall on the way down the ramp, and looked death in the eye each time the machine sailed off the cliff without them.

In The Mechanic, a filthily mustachioed Charles Bronson (pre-Death Wish, post-Great Escape) plays a hitman who befriends an aspiring killer. As a film it's mostly notable for a languid 16-minute intro that goes entirely without dialog, its portrayal of an assassin kept afloat by antidepressants, and some damned fine stunt work. We can thank Gibbs and Roberts for that, and Cycle for showing us just how it was done.