Bud Ekins was nothing short of a legend in motorcycling, earning a Triple Crown of the lifestyle: he was one of the most accomplished off-road racers ever; an extremely successful Hollywood motorcycle stuntman who performed what is probably the most iconic motorcycle stunt in cinema history; and owned one of the largest-yet-curated collections of motorcycles in the world.
Ekins was born in Hollywood in 1930, and was a mischievous son to a working-class family. While he loved cars when he was young, his world changed instantly when he rode his cousin’s motorcycle once as a teenager. He bought a used 1940 Triumph and rode it every day all over the undeveloped, untamed land that surrounded Los Angeles at the time.
In 1949, his racing career began when he entered into the highly popular and competitive Big Bear Endurance Run, and did surprisingly well. He got serious about racing after that, and by the mid-50s became the top scrambles and desert racer in Southern California. He even won the district’s number one plate seven times, which is no small feat. He was so good that he was invited to participate in races internationally, where he had some of his most prestigious wins over his career.
"Uncle Bud," as Ekins was known to a young Eddie Mulder, Ekins helped launch Mulder’s career when Mulder beat Ekins in the 1959 Mohave Hare Scramble at age 16, when Ekins was an internationally revered off-road racer. Following the Scramble, Ekins helped Mulder get factory sponsorship from Triumph, forging not only a new legend, but a lifelong friendship.
Another of Ekins’ closest friends was none other than fellow motorcycling legend Steve McQueen. In the 60s, Ekins owned a Triumph dealership in Hollywood, which became the local hangout for many actors of the day including Lee Marvin. One of these was McQueen, who got started on off-road racing because of Ekins.
In 1962, McQueen was in Germany filming The Great Escape, and asked Ekins to come out to do some motorcycle stunt work for him. Ekins had never done any stunt work for movies before, but decided to give it a shot. Together, Ekins and McQueen devised what is now the most iconic motorcycle stunt in movie history: the impossible jump that McQueen’s character makes over a fence while trying to escape from a German WWII POW camp, on a Triumph motorcycle. Ekins was McQueen’s stunt double for the movie, and performed the legendary jump with ease, launching his career as a stuntman.
Ekins career as a Hollywood stuntman spanned an amazing 30 years, and he performed stunts in such movies as Bullitt, Hell’s Angels ‘69, The Towering Inferno, Animal House, and The Blues Brothers.
After retiring in the late 90s, Ekins continued to own and run a vintage motorcycle shop in Hollywood. While running the shop, Ekins truly started collecting motorcycles. His goal was to own one of every brand of motorcycle to have ever been made in America. While he never completed his objective, his collection boasted over 150 motorcycles, and featured bikes from 54 American brands, most of which were made before World War I.
He was inducted into the Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 1999, and his influence and legacy continues to thrive in today’s motorcycle community, culture, and heritage.