This is a Husqvarna 400 Cross and even if it wasn’t for its celebrity provenance it would already be a significant machine due to the fact that this was the model that won the 1969 and 1970 500cc World Championships.
The fact that this bike was originally bought by Bud Ekins as part of the first batch of 55 destined for California adds to its historic significance – that same shipment from Gothenberg, Sweden contained identical bikes for Steve McQueen and Malcolm Smith.
The Husqvarna 400 Cross
- The Husqvarna 400 Cross was released in 1969 as the replacement for the Husqvarna 360. It featured a number of improvements of its predecessor including a fully-welded frame and a more powerful 400cc two-stroke engine.
- This new model proved immediately successful, Bengt Aberg rode his 400 Cross to win both the 1969 and 1970 500cc World Championships. Over in the USA riders like Gunnar Nilsson, J.N. Roberts, Malcolm Smith took victories in brutal Southern California desert races.
- For many the Husqvarna represents the changeover that occurred in the late 1960s between the formerly dominant, heavier four-stroke motorcycles and lighter two-stroke motorcycles that would come to dominate off-road racing.
- The Husqvarna 400 Cross ridden by McQueen is probably the single most famous one in the world, it’s the one ridden by Steve McQueen in that timeless Sports Illustrated cover from 1971.
The Great Bud Ekins
Bud Ekins is a name that may or may not be familiar to you, but whether you know the name or not it’s almost certain that you’ve seen him on screen. He was the stuntman who did the border jump in The Great Escape, he did many of the stunts in Bullitt, and his full list of Hollywood film appearances is as long as your arm.
Above Video: This segment of an interview with Bud Ekins shows him telling the story of the legendary border fence jump scene in The Great Escape and talking about his life-long friendship with the actor.
Ekins was an American motorcycle racer, stuntman, and actor who is best known for his work in major Hollywood films, as well as his contributions to the development of off-road motorcycle racing – from a small burgeoning sport in the 1950s into the multi-billion dollar juggernaut it is today.
He was born in Hollywood, California in 1930 and it would be his contributions to both desert racing and the film industry that he’s best remembered for. His father was a motorcycle dealer, and as a result Ekins grew up around motorcycles from a young age. He began riding and racing motorcycles as a teenager, and quickly established himself as a naturally talented, competitive rider.
In the 1950s, Ekins became involved in the emerging sport of off-road motorcycle racing. He competed in a variety of events and quickly established himself as one of the top riders in the sport. He was known for his daring and aggressive riding style, and he was a popular figure among fans of off-road racing.
Ekins’ success on the racetrack led to opportunities in Hollywood. In the early 1960s, he began working as a stuntman and stunt coordinator on a variety of films, including The Great Escape and Bullitt thanks to his friendship with A-list actor Steve McQueen.
Ekins’ most famous stunt came in The Great Escape, in which he doubled for Steve McQueen during the film’s iconic motorcycle chase and border fence jump scene. Ekins performed the jump over the barbed wire fence that has become one of the most famous moments in movie history.
Although McQueen is often credited with performing the stunt himself, it was actually Ekins who completed the jump and McQueen was always quick to credit him for it.
In addition to his work as a stuntman, Ekins had a successful career as an actor. He appeared in a variety of films and television shows, including The Wild Angels and Batman.
Ekins’ contributions to the world of off-road motorcycle racing were also significant. He helped to develop and popularize the sport of desert racing in the United States, and he played a key role in the creation of the Baja 1000, one of the most famous off-road races in the world. He also worked as a motorcycle dealer and mechanic, and he was known for his expertise in building and modifying motorcycles for off-road racing.
Ekins continued to be involved in the world of motorcycles and Hollywood throughout his life. He worked as a consultant on a variety of films, including On Any Sunday, a documentary about motorcycle racing that is widely regarded as one of the best films ever made about the sport. He also remained active in off-road racing, and he continued to participate in events well into his 60s.
The Ex-Bud Ekins Husqvarna 400 Cross Shown Here
As noted above, this is the 1970 Husqvarna 400 Cross bought by Bud Ekins as part of that first shipment of 55 bikes back in 1969.
He’s said to have bought the bike for his own personal use and also to ride as a stunt bike in films, this is confirmed by a supporting letter from the Husqvarna importer of the time, Mr M. E. Dye.
Today this 400 Cross remains in unrestored, original condition throughout and it still has a number of customizations added including a decompressor valve, aftermarket Goki air caps have been fitted to the forks, the rear shock absorbers have been moved further back on the swinging arm, and a Hooker performance exhaust has been installed – common changes made to increase the model’s competitiveness.
The bike has been carefully preserved and now looks much like it must have when Ekins himself was riding it – as you can see he didn’t do things by halves and the bike has clearly be ridden hard.
It’s now due to roll across the auction block with Bonhams on the 22nd of April with a price guide of £12,000 – £16,000 or approximately $15,720 USD – $20,960 USD.
If you’d like to read more about it or register to bid you can visit the listing here on Bonhams.
Images courtesy of Bonhams
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