The Sil­ver Dream Racer

It was the fu­tur­is­tic star of the cult rac­ing film, but you won’t find it any mu­se­ums

Motorcycle News (UK) - - Features -

Re­leased in 1980 and star­ring David Es­sex as strug­gling pri­va­teer bike racer Nick Free­man, Sil­ver Dream Racer was the Rocky of mo­tor­cy­cle rac­ing movies. The plot re­volved around a pro­to­type bike – the Sil­ver Dream Racer – that Free­man in­her­its from his en­gi­neer­ing brother after he dies in a mo­tocross ac­ci­dent. Free­man enters the Bri­tish Grand Prix and wins the race but is killed when he crashes into the pit wall after cross­ing the line. The bike was real and Bri­tish racer Roger Marshall ac­tu­ally rode it in the 1979 Bri­tish GP, but what be­came of this piece of mo­tor­cy­cling movie his­tory?

What was the ac­tual bike? It was a two-stoke, cus­tom-built by now de­funct Bri­tish firm Bar­ton Mo­tors. For­mer man­ag­ing di­rec­tor Gra­ham Dyson (who sadly passed away in 2012) ex­plained in a 2009 in­ter­view how the sur­prise build came about: “Out of the blue we got a call from the movie peo­ple ask­ing if we could build bikes for a film. We went down to Pinewood Studios and even­tu­ally got a con­tract to build three bikes, al­though we only ac­tu­ally ever built two, us­ing our en­gines in a chas­sis which we de­signed our­selves.”

How good was the bike? Its sil­ver body­work looked stun­ningly fu­tur­is­tic but sadly the bike looked bet­ter than it went. “The pro­ducer lived in a bit of a dream world,” Roger Marshall says. “He thought I could ac­tu­ally beat Barry Sheene and Kenny Roberts and win the Bri­tish GP on the thing! He was dis­traught when I told him I’d be lucky to even qual­ify. In the end we slipped a 750cc en­gine into the bike (which had housed a 500cc en­gine to get through scru­ti­neer­ing) which helped me qual­ify about 16th.”

In the movie, the bike wins the race. Where did it re­ally fin­ish? “I was in the points in the race un­til the bike de­vel­oped a fuel leak,” says Marshall. “So I pulled over and ex­plained to the mar­shals that we re­ally needed to get a shot of me cross­ing the fin­ish line pre­tend­ing I’d won the race. They waited for the last lap then flagged me out on track in be­tween groups of rid­ers and we got the shot we needed!”

Was the bike de­stroyed in the fi­nal scene of the film when it crashes into the pit wall and ex­plodes? No. That was in fact a 250 Yamaha dressed up in Sil­ver Dream body­work.

Is it true that the en­gine from the Sil­ver Dream Racer went on to fin­ish fourth in the 1983 Side­car TT? This has be­come part of TT folk­lore but sadly it’s not true. Al­though Nigel Rollason did use a Bar­ton-phoenix en­gine to fin­ish fourth in the sec­ond Side­car TT of 1983, it wasn’t the ac­tual one from the Dream Racer. “We made 20 Bar­ton-phoenix en­gines in

all be­tween 1978 and 1981,” Dyson ex­plained. Of the first 10, one was used by Nigel Rollason in the Side­car TT. Most of the en­gines went into Side­cars, but one went into a solo which was even­tu­ally lost in the fire at the Na­tional Mo­tor­cy­cle Mu­seum.”

What hap­pened to Bar­ton Mo­tors – the firm that built the bike? “At the end of film­ing we still re­tained own­er­ship of the bikes so we con­verted them to be a bit more prac­ti­cal and raced them for a bit,” Dyson ex­plained. “Then the re­ces­sion hit and we sold Bar­ton Mo­tors to Arm­strong. Arm­strong then later sold the whole project to Erik Buell who carted the whole lot off to the States. He even­tu­ally said the bikes were a load of rub­bish and de­cided to go his own way.”

So what ac­tu­ally be­came of the Sil­ver Dream Racer? “The Sil­ver Dream Racer doesn’t ex­ist any longer,” Dyson ex­plained. “There’s a mock-up one made from a third chas­sis. It was bought by a guy called Trevor Rad­cliffe who then later sold it to a col­lec­tor in Ger­many. But it’s not a real Sil­ver Dream Racer – it’s not even a run­ner.”

Amaz­ingly, the bike did ac­tu­ally qual­ify for the Bri­tish 500 GP (but only with a 750cc en­gine)

House­wives’ favourite Es­sex starred

Weirdly over­looked by the Os­cars, you can still find DVDS on­line for not much cash

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