Extraordinary evening at the Triumph Factory Visitor Experience, honouring The Great Escape with special guest John Leyton

The evening was designed to:

  • Celebrate the audacity and sheer bravery of the Allied soldiers in March 1944 attempting to break out of prisoner of war camp Stalag Luft 3 in Poland.
  • Provide previously untold insights into the 1962 film epic that came to immortalise the real 'Great Escape' and the iconic motorcycle stunt performed by Bud Ekins, doubling for Steve McQueen, which has become ingrained in film history folklore.  Triumph invited John Leyton to appear as special guest for the evening, having been cast into the film as ‘Willie the tunnel king’ by director John Sturges.
  • Explain and showcase Triumph's 2019 partnership with North One Television and Guy Martin, which brought the story back to our TV screens with a modern twist.


The over-subscribed evening on Thursday 30th January 2020 contained:

  • A live, big screen airing of North One production’s 2019 Channel 4 television show ‘Guy Martin’s Great Escape’.
  • A live demonstration of one of the world’s most iconic and valuable motorcycles - the original Triumph TR6 from the 1962 film ‘The Great Escape’ as ridden by Steve McQueen and Bud Ekins for the world-renowned jump - was ridden onto centre stage for the exclusive, delighted audience.
  • The public debut of the distinctive Scrambler 1200 XE motorcycle custom built and painted by Triumph in collaboration with Guy Martin for his attempt to recreate and improve on the original 1962 jump.


John Leyton starred in the original 1962 epic Great Escape film as 'Willie the tunnel king', alongside Charles Bronson and is one of the last surviving cast members of the original, classic movie. John delivered his own unique behind-the-scenes insight into the filming and production of ‘The Great Escape’, revealing little-known facts about the world-famous jump and telling stories of what it was like to work alongside Steve McQueen and other members of the all-star cast.

There are not many people in the world who can say that Steve McQueen taught them how to ride a motorcycle, but John Leyton is one of them. John said:


"Everyone was riding bikes on the movie set. There were bikes everywhere! Steve McQueen asked me if I could ride a bike and unfortunately I couldn’t. Steve promptly took it upon himself to teach me how to ride!”


Other special guests of the evening included Dick Shepherd, an enthusiastic collector of Triumph motorcycles with a driving passion for the history of motorcycles. Dick is the custodian of the original Triumph TR6 Great Escape film bike, which is displayed permanently at the Triumph Factory Visitor Experience.  During this commemorative evening Dick rode this famous bike onto stage for the lucky audience.


The distinctive Scrambler 1200 XE that was custom built by Triumph with Guy Martin’s assistance was also ridden onto the stage in its first public appearance. His 2019 attempt to recreate the original jump was designed around this bike, to honour the original role of the Triumph TR6 in the 1962 film.

Guy’s plan in the television show also involved jumping further over the additional and higher fence, an exact replica of the original 1962 German-based set. Steve McQueen’s fictional character had attempted landing in Switzerland to ultimate freedom, so the barbed-wire covered fences have come to symbolise freedom for fans the world over.

Triumph’s Chief of Engineering Stuart Wood detailed for the audience the modifications required to set the bike up for the Bavarian jump seen on Channel 4’s Guy Martin’s Great Escape.

Stuart Wood said: “It was really interesting, we looked at the suspension both front and in particular the rear to check for any required alterations, and after in-depth analysis, we realised we could use the Scrambler 1200’s original Öhlins adjustable suspension set up with minimal modification – it is just so good.”

For all film and motorcycle fans who attended, this really was a night to remember.  The next special exhibition at the Triumph Factory Visitor Experience will feature the history of the Daytona with some racing legends and never seen before bikes. 

For more information on the Triumph Factory Visitor Experience, click here: https://www.triumphmotorcycles.co.uk/visitor-experience


Notes to Editors

About Triumph

  • The Triumph Moto2™ 765cc race engine is a development of the class-leading Street Triple RS 765cc road motorcycle with the same visceral soundtrack.
  • First established in 1902, Triumph Motorcycles celebrated 115 years of motorcycle manufacture in 2017. For more than three decades, Triumph Motorcycles has been based in Hinckley, Leicestershire, and has produced iconic bikes that perfectly blend authentic design, character, charisma and performance.
  • Building around 65,000 bikes per year, Triumph is the largest British motorcycle manufacturer and has around 650 dealers across the world.
  • This focus, innovation and engineering passion has today created a broad range of bikes suited to all motorcycle riders, including the iconic new Scrambler 1200, epic Speed Triple, the game changing all new Street Triple 765, the class defining Tiger 900, transcontinental Tiger 1200, iconic Triumph Bonneville family including the stunning Speed Twin, Bonneville Bobber, legendary Thruxton, accessible Street Twin, Street Scrambler and iconic Bonneville T120 and T100, plus an exciting and accessible A2 range of Triumph motorcycles.
  • Triumph currently employs around 2,000 personnel worldwide and has subsidiary operations in the UK, North America, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Japan, Sweden (Scandinavia), Benelux, Brazil, India and Thailand as well as a network of independent distributors. Triumph has manufacturing facilities in Hinckley, Leicestershire, and Thailand plus CKD facilities in Brazil and India.
  • The Triumph Bonneville, famously named to celebrate Triumph’s 1956 land speed record on the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah, USA, was the original British superbike and a race-winner straight out of the crate, chosen by famous motorcyclists of the past for its legendary handling, style, and character. It’s that handling, character and style, married to modern rider-focused technology that makes the new Bonneville family THE authentic modern classic choice today.
  • Triumph has a glorious racing history, competing in and winning races in almost every class and field of motorcycle sporting achievement. From winning the second ever Isle of Man TT in 1908, through to 1960s road and track domination in Europe and America, right up to contemporary racing achievements with the 675cc Triumph triple powered 2014 Daytona 200 win, the 2014 Isle of Man Supersports TT win, the 2014 and 2015 British Supersports titles and World SuperSport racing, and again this year, with another victory at the Isle of Man Supersports TT, piloted by Peter Hickman. And of course with the new generation 765cc triple engine powering the 2019 Moto2™ championship, Triumph’s racing legend continues.