Café racers in legendary films
From the first black & white films to modern cinema, passing through animated films, motorcycles have gone through history and left their mark on the Seventh Art . The sleek and wild look of the European Café Racer movement, but also the American Choppers with oversized frames, has inspired many screenwriters. These modified bikes, far from the production models, have found their place in the hearts of the public and some of them have become real stars. From Easy Rider to The Walking Dead via Mad Max , discover some mythical motorcycles of the Café Racer spirit in the movies. Whether in the series or in the cinema: the Café Racer and Scrambler are on the screen .
The Café Racer spirit in cinema, a symbol of freedom
The Savage Team - © Columbia Pictures
Quick historical reminder, it is to an actor-stuntman that we owe one of the very first appearances of a two-wheeler in the cinema. We are in 1924. In the dark rooms, dumbfounded spectators witness the completely crazy stunts of a Buster Keaton in top form, seated astride the handlebars of a Harley-Davidson ( Sherlock Junior ).
Later, in the 1950s, the motorcycle became a symbol of freedom and speed . It conveys a disturbing image for many, fascinating for others. The roads then resound with the roar of machines ridden by helmeted rebels, equipped with jackets and leather boots. The cinema took hold of the phenomenon and in 1953, the film The Wild One ( l'Équipée Sauvage ) told the violent story of a gang of young motorcyclists led by Marlon Brandon on a Triumph 6T Thunderbirdn and Lee Marvin .
The Café Racer spirit is emerging and will carry the "bad boys" image conveyed by this film for a long time. This element of mystery, the apprehension aroused by these bikers with their faces hidden under stylized helmets, who flirt with the asphalt at each turn, boldly facing the weather, all this contributes to the appeal of two-wheelers. They still reflect a powerful symbol today, that of freedom . A strong notion, anchored in the collective memory. A strange alchemy mixing danger, challenge, speed, black jackets and other hordes of Hells Angels sowing panic as they pass. A devilishly effective cocktail for the Seventh Art.
Cult films for legendary bikes
The Great Escape - © United Artists
There is no shortage of films and series featuring Scrambler, Chopper and other Trackers. Yet two of them are revealing of the impact of the “ biker ” universe and will forever be inked in the history of cinema.
The year 1969 saw the release of Easy Rider (directed by Dennis Hopper), a road movie that had become a classic of the genre, "rocked" by the notes of the excellent Born to Be Wild by Steppenwolf. For the anecdote, four Hydra-Glide will be used by Cliff Vaughs (filmmaker and motorcycle builder), for the manufacture of two copies of the famous Captain America . These mind-blowing bikes, equipped with long telescopic forks, raised exhaust pipes and ape hanger handlebars will remain as the reference of the Chopper.
If we go back a few years, in 1963, there is another film that has marked the collective memory: The Great Escape (The Great Escape ). Admittedly, this masterpiece is in no way based on the biker universe, and the motorcycle plays only a minor role. However, this film associates two legends: Steve McQueen and Triumph .
The two together will produce an alchemy so powerful that for many, The Great Escape first evokes Steve McQueen's motorcycle escape scene. It's clear, how not to remember this incredible pursuit, riding a German army motorcycle (in this case a 650cc Triumph TR6R, year 1962 ), this prodigious jump and this end tragedy in the barbed wire?
Steve McQueen, motor sports enthusiast, was keen on motorcycles. He participated in several races and also inspired many Scramblers . Moreover, for those who wish to take a trip on the English roads, know that this famous motorcycle is on display at the Triumph Factory Visitor Experience in Hinckley, Leicestershire.
Difficult to pass through these two works, to see or see again without moderation. Since then, the cinema has used two-wheelers in a large number of productions, ranging from nanars to blockbusters. There is no shortage of cult films for legendary motorcycles, so it is necessary to make a small selection to discover the essentials of the genre.
Cafe Racer at the service of the Stars
Mission Impossible: Fallout © Paramount Pictures
Motorcycles, present in films that have become box office hits, have sparked the envy and imagination of many bikers passionate about the world of the Café Racer. If Harley-Davidson and Triumph are often on the bill, the Japanese also appear in many productions such as the Mad Max saga and in particular the first episode where a gang of motorcyclists "armed" with Kawasaki Z1000 sows terror in a devastated world.
In the big bikes category, it's hard to miss Harley-Davidson's Fat Boy and the first chords of " Bad To The Bone ". It took at least this monster of power to transport the heavy Terminator! ( Terminator 2: Judgment Day, 1991. )
On the European side, let's mention the Ducatti 996 driven by Carrie-Anne Moss (Trinity) during a frantic chase in the blockbuster Matrix Reloaded (2003). Let's finish this quick overview with another customary user of two-wheelers: the American actor Tom Cruise. We find him in 2018, in the role of Ethan Hunt ( Mission Impossible: Fallout) , riding a superb BMW R nine T Scrambler for a series of breathtaking stunts in the streets of Paris.
So many unforgettable motorcycles that have inspired many preparers and prep enthusiasts, because they have their own identity, associated with their pilot. All the spirit of the Café Racer!
The Scrambler from The Walking Dead series
The Walking Dead- © CMA
Small detour to the world of TV series, because after all, they are a must in today's audiovisual world. The opportunity is too tempting to venture on these roads infested with the undead, from the hit series The Walking Dead . One of the characters, friend Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus), taciturn with a big heart and rebellious biker, had to ride an extraordinary motorcycle.
Production started on a Model 92 Honda CB750 Nighthawk . After major modifications, and to allow this superb bike to prevent Daryl from appearing on the menu of undesirable zombies, the beauty has taken on a hellish post-apocalyptic look! Hard to resist. So, if you feel like driving a Scrambler of this type, here is the list of equipment necessary for its realization:
- base : Honda CB750 Nighthawk 1992;
- fork : Yamaha YZF-R6;
- Handlebar : Seven Eighths (7/8) CR High;
- front brakes : Yamaha YZF-R6;
- front wheel : Yamaha YZF-R6;
- rear wheel : Honda CB750 Nighthawk;
- Tires : Kenda Big Block;
- chain : DID X-ring;
- suspensions : Progressive Suspension 970 piggybacks;
- tank : XS650 reproduction;
- Air Intake : Double Billet Aluminum Grille;
- Battery : Shorai Lithium Ion;
- Exhaust : Honda CB750 Nighthawk, modified with custom made baffles by Seth Ingham (Sleeper Designs);
- Saddle : Leather, custom designed by Roy Baird, Richmond, VA.
Modifications that can quickly cost an arm (Zombie humor) if you want to make a perfect replica. But these indications can be a good start of ideas to launch a Café Racer project.
In another genre, a little bonus for those who missed it: the Sons of Anarchy series. Harleys, do you want them, here you go, leather jackets and charismatic characters on the program for the seven seasons that make it up.
Clap of end or beginning, it's up to you...
The Café Racer spirit lives on every day, on his motorcycle, in his workshop. Breaking the mold of series models and giving your bike its own identity provides undeniable satisfaction and driving pleasure to live. We select quality products to allow you to customize your motorcycles according to your wishes and we are at your service to advise you. The films cited in this article, and there are many others, offer real sources of inspiration for developing preparation projects.
Do not hesitate to share with us your cinematographic experiences on the impact of the Café Racer style through films and series.