Just 300 examples of the Metisse Steve McQueen Desert Racer will be made, it’s a low-volume production motorcycle based very closely on the Metisse owned and ridden by Steve McQueen in the 1960s.
“This rig is the best handling bike I’ve ever owned!” – So said McQueen about his Metisse, a motorcycle formed by taking an engine/gearbox from a major manufacturer (Triumph in this case) and pairing it with a lightweight racing frame and high-quality suspension.
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 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).
The Metisse And The Rickman Brothers
Brothers Don and Derek Rickman were successful off road motorcycle racers in the late 1940s, competing in trials and scrambles events in the United Kingdom.
The untimely death of their father left them his fully equipped workshop in the 1950s, they began building their own motorcycles and within 20 years the brothers would grow their business into the largest surviving motorcycle manufacturer in Britain.
It became clear to the Rickmans that the motorcycles they were competing on were simply too heavy to be competitive.
They designed their own motorcycle frame using high-end Reynolds 531 tubing, they fitted it with British motorcycle engines and transmissions, and used the best suspension and brakes they could source. Later the brothers would use engines from other countries, including Japanese engines in many of their most popular road bikes.
The resulting motorcycle was far lighter than the bikes they had been using previously, with better handling and performance. Demand for these new Rickman motorcycles was high on both sides of the Atlantic.
As the 1960s progressed they began offering road racing motorcycle frame sets as well, and by the mid-1970s they were selling 4,000+ a year, making them the largest surviving motorcycle manufacturer in the UK.
The Metisse Mk3 is likely the motorcycle that the Rickman brothers are best remembered for today, it revolutionized the world of off road motorcycle racing in the 1960s, it was highly influential on the production scramblers of the day, and it remained surprisingly competitive against the lightweight two-strokes when they arrived.
The Metisse Steve McQueen Desert Racer
As noted in the introduction this motorcycle is one of just 300 that will be made as part of this series of McQueen Metisse replicas. The bike shown in this article is frame #002, frame #001 went to Steve McQueen’s son Chad McQueen, so this is the first one that was ever offered for public sale.
This Metisse was built using the company’s famous nickel plated brazed 4130 chromoly tube frame with a matching 4130 chromoly tube swing arm. Up front you’ll find 35mm Ceriani forks and BSA yokes, and there are twin Girling reproduction dampers and springs in the rear.
Power is provided by a fully reconditioned 650cc TR6 Triumph parallel twin of unit construction with a reconditioned 4-speed gearbox and a chain drive to the rear wheel. The engine is fitted with an Amal single concentric type R930/23 carburetor and twin up-swept chrome exhaust pipes.
As far as off-road scrambler type motorcycles from the early 1960s goes, the Rickmans were among the very best in the world, and they retain a strong following to the model day.
The Metisse Steve McQueen Desert Racer you see here is currently being offered for sale on Collecting Cars out of Gloucestershire in the United Kingdom. If you’d like to read more about it or register to bid you can visit the listing here.
Images courtesy of Collecting Cars
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