Keep yer mo­tor run­nin’

Two iconic road films have come of age, writes Mark Hinch­liffe

The Courier-Mail - Motoring - - CARS GUIDE -

PETER Fonda throws his watch away and fires up his Har­ley be­fore hit­ting the road south to­wards New Orleans, free­dom and fate, all to the tune of Step­pen­wolf’s Born to be Wild.

It’s the fa­mous open­ing cred­its scene from Easy Rider, cel­e­brat­ing its 40th an­niver­sary this year.

The scene was lam­pooned in the 2007 John Tra­volta com­edy Wild Hogs, with mo­bile phones sub­sti­tuted for watches.

Wild Hogs was a box of­fice suc­cess and a se­quel is com­ing next year, but there was no se­quel to Easy Rider which was a box of­fice suc­cess in 1969 and has en­dured as an icon for the free­dom of the open road.

While Fonda, Den­nis Hop­per and Jack Ni­chol­son may have been the hu­man stars of the film, two cus­tomised Har­ley-David­son Pan­head hard-tail Hy­draglide bikes were the real stars. Where they are now is a mys­tery. There were ac­tu­ally four 1949, 1950 and 1952 ex-po­lice bikes used so that the two fea­tured bikes had a back-up in case of ac­ci­dent.

Fonda rode the ‘‘Cap­tain Amer­ica’’ which had Amer­i­can Stars and Stripes paint­work and long, ex­tended forks with ‘‘ape­hanger’’ bars which made it dif­fi­cult to ride.

Hop­per was not as ac­com­plished a rider as Fonda, so his ‘‘Billy bike’’ was less ‘‘chopped’’ and fea­tured flame paint­work which has be­come as pop­u­lar among Har­ley rid­ers as the fringed and tassled leather jacket he wore in the movie.

One of the bikes was burnt for the fi­nal scene while the other three were stolen be­fore film­ing was com­pleted.

They were prob­a­bly sold as parts be­fore the thieves re­alised the bikes’ value.

The burnt Cap­tain Amer­ica bike was re­built, shown in a mu­seum and auc­tioned in 2001.

Sev­eral Cap­tain Amer­ica and Billy bikes have been sold over the past 40 years, but none has been con­firmed as the orig­i­nal. Even the Cap­tain Amer­ica in the new Har­ley mu­seum in Milwaukee is only a replica.

For its part, Har­ley never both­ered to pro­duce a bike like the Easy Rider ma­chines un­til it re­leased the FXCW Rocker and FXCWC Rocker C Sof­tails in 2007 which fea­tured ex­tended forks, chopped rear tail, skinny front tyre and fat rear tyre.

BORN WILD: Peter Fonda and Den­nis Hop­per in a scene from

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