This is a Steve McQueen Metisse Desert Racer. It’s one of 300 that are scheduled to be made, each is built in England to the specifications of the one owned by Steve McQueen in the 1960s, and the series is officially approved by his estate.

McQueen’s love of machines is well documented, he owned motorcycles, cars, and four-wheel drives, plus he was an accomplished racer on both two wheels and four. He was such a successful motorcycle racer that he used his winnings to pay for acting school in the 1950s.

Fast Facts – Steve McQueen Metisse Desert Racer

  • Steve McQueen was famously fond of his original Metisse desert racer in the 1960s. He raced it off road extensively and it largely replaced the Triumph TR6C that he’d been riding previously.
  • The Metisse makes use of a tubular steel duplex cradle frame fitted with a 650cc Triumph parallel twin engine and four-speed transmission. It’s considerably lighter than a comparable Triumph from the era.
  • “Metisse” is a French word for a person of mixed heritage, it’s used in this context to describe the Rickman-designed Mk3 which uses an in-house developed frame with an engine, suspension, and brakes from other manufacturers.
  • Each Steve McQueen Metisse Desert Racer is build brand new using a restored Triumph engine and transmission, just 300 will be made, and they were co-developed with Steve McQueen’s son Chad McQueen and Dave Ekins (brother of Bud Ekins).

Métisse Motorcycles

Métisse Motorcycles was established in the late 1950s by the Rickman brothers, Derek and Don. The company began its journey not as a fully-fledged motorcycle manufacturer, but as a designer and producer of custom racing motorcycle frames into which engines from major manufacturers could be fitted. Métisse means “mongrel” or “mixed breed” in French, it was chosen as the company name as a reference to the fact that Métisse motorcycles were made from a mixed bag of parts.

Steve McQueen Rickman Metisse Motorcycle Middle Finger

Image DescriptionThis is one of the most famous photographs of Steve McQueen ever taken. Look closely and you’ll notice that he’s sitting on his Rickman Metisse, it was said to be his favorite motorcycle for off-road riding. Image courtesy of the Steve McQueen Estate.

The Rickman brothers, both successful enduro and off-road motorcycle racers in their own right, were dissatisfied with the performance, handling, and weight of existing off-road motorcycle frames. They recognized that while there were excellent engines available, the frames and suspension often didn’t do justice to them justice.

This realization led them to develop their own custom frame, which could house a variety of engines through the use of engine mount adapter plates. Rickman-designed frames quickly earned a reputation for being both very stiff and very lightweight – both attributes that are much in demand for motorcycle frames (and automotive frames too of course).

These Métisse frames could be ordered individually, the company also offered fully-built and operational motorcycles, as well as kits that included the frame, suspension, wheels, brakes, and a lightweight fiberglass fuel tank, fenders, and bodywork.

Many buyers opted to built up their own motorcycle starting with just the frame and bodykit. They would choose their engine, then pair it with the best suspension and brakes they could find to create a motorcycle that was far more capable than even the best of the factory-built scramblers of the time.

One famous proponent of the Rickman-designed Métisse was Steve McQueen – a talented off-road motorcycle racer in his own right who used to enter races using the pseudonym Harvey Mushman so that he could compete without people knowing who he he was under his helmet and goggles.

Earlier in his racing career McQueen had used the Triumph TR6C, otherwise known as the “Desert Sled,” this was a factory built motorcycle that became one of the most popular desert racing motorcycles of the 1960s.

Metisse Steve McQueen Desert Racer 15

Image DescriptionThe Metisse Steve McQueen Desert Racer is almost indistinguishable from the original, not surprising as that’s the bike it was based on.

The Métisse could be fitted with the same engine as the TR6C but with the might lighter Rickman frame and improved suspension – overall the Métisse was much lighter and it handled better, it wasn’t long before it became McQueen’s favorite.

Over the years as the 1960s became the 1970s and time marched on the Rickman brothers began developing successful road racing frames that could accommodate the dominant inline-four cylinder Japanese engines of the time.

Amazingly, it’s still possible to buy yourself a Métisse today over 60 years since the first designs were released.

The Metisse Steve McQueen Desert Racer

The motorcycle you see in this article is one of the 300 examples of the Metisse Steve McQueen Desert Racer that are going to be made.

As noted further up, the design is based on the Metisse that Steve McQueen owned himself and used for desert racing duties in Southern California and once described in an interview by saying: “This rig is the best handling bike I’ve ever owned!”

Metisse Steve McQueen Desert Racer 17

Image DescriptionPower is provided by the Triumph TR6 engine, it’s a 650cc parallel twin that was also used in the famous Triumph TR6C “Desert Sled.”

Each bike starts with a hand-made, nickel-plated, brazed 4130 chrome-moly tube frame which is paired with a swing arm made from the same material. 35mm Ceriani forks are fitted up front and paired with twin Girling reproduction shock absorbers in the rear.

A 7″ Triumph drum brake is fitted up front along with a smaller drum on the rear. Spoked wheels are installed front and back, and the bike is fitted with the distinctive Rickman fiberglass body kit which consists of an 8 liter fuel tank, a seat, rear cowl, front fender, and dual side covers all finished in battleship grey.

On the fuel tank you’ll find the Metisse logo with Steve McQueen’s authorized autograph. The bike has a dry weight of just 135 kgs (297 lbs) and it offers 190mm of front suspension travel with 100mm in the rear. An additional Road Pack can be ordered from Metisse that includes a headlight, horn, indicators, rear lights, and brake light to make the bike road legal.

The Metisse Steve McQueen Desert Racer shown here is currently being offered for sale on Collecting Cars out of Ludlow in the United Kingdom. It has 0 miles on the odometer since new and it was first registered with the DVLA in 2018 as a 1966 vehicle.

Metisse Steve McQueen Desert Racer 4

Image DescriptionThis bike has been fitted with the optional “Road Pack,” this includes things like the head light and brake light, as well as the other parts needed to make the bike street legal.

This Metisse ws ordered with the Road Pack installed, meaning it’s now fully road legal and can be driven on the street – perhaps making it a little more practically useful than a non-road legal bike that would need to be trailered to and from your trails.

If you’d like to read more about this motorcycle or register to bid you can visit the listing here.

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Images courtesy of Collecting Cars

Published by Ben Branch -