VANCOUVER — Want something different to do this holiday season? Discover what movie stars Marlon Brando, Clint Eastwood, Steve McQueen, Anthony Hopkins, Peter Fonda and Tom Cruise have in common. They all rode motorcycles in the roles they played in films over the past 60 years.
Cycles & Cinema is the theme of the current show at the Deeley Motorcycle Exhibition – the show of shows at the museum attached to Canada’s oldest Harley-Davidson dealer, Trev Deeley Motorcycles.
The museum on Boundary Road displays a rotation of 300 historic motorcycles worth in excess of $3 million. Deeley Exhibition director Brent Cooke, a long-time motorcycle enthusiast, believes movies afford a glimpse into the motorcycle world, encouraging people to experience the joy and freedom of riding motorcycles with friends. He wanted to bring that feeling to the Cycles & Cinema exhibition with every motorcycle on display representing a film role.
You learn a lot while touring the exhibits. For example, it was not an American-built motorcycle that Marlon Brando rode in the 1953 film The Wild One. The Deeley Exhibition displays a 1953 BSA Golden Flash like the one the motorcycle gang leader played by Brando used in his rampage through California towns. The Wild One became the first motorcycle film to define the rebellious young gang members who rode on the wrong side of the law.
Also displayed is a 1944 Harley-Davidson EL featured prominently in the film while being ridden by actor Lee Marvin.
Following the rebellion theme, a replica of the Harley-Davidson chopper called Captain America ridden by Peter Fonda in the 1969 film Easy Rider occupies space on a turntable alongside the Billy Bike Harley used by Dennis Hopper. Cooke says this film depicting two counterculture bikers traveling from Los Angeles to New Orleans was completed in two weeks with a budget of only $400,000. Four former Los Angeles Police Department Harley-Davidson motorcycles were customized for use in the film, and none exist today.
Internet searches resulted in him buying a perfect replica of the Captain America motorcycle from an enthusiast in Scottsdale, Arizona, and the Billy Bike from an owner in Detroit.
In the film Every Which Way But Loose, Clint Eastwood runs afoul of the Black Widows motorcycle gang in a cross-country pursuit of a girl. The featured motorcycle is a 1940 Indian Chief similar to the one on display.
The 1920 Indian Scout motorcycle on display has the same engine as used in the 2005 film The World’s Fastest Indian. The all-original vintage bike is on loan from a Washington State owner whose father bought it new. The film depicts real-life New Zealander Burt Monro setting world speed records with his modified Indian motorcycle, including the 1967 record of 190 mph (305 km/h) – the fastest speed ever recorded by an Indian motorcycle.
The Steve McQueen motorcycles are given a prominent space in the Deeley Exhibition. In the iconic scene from The Great Escape released in 1963, McQueen rides a Triumph TR-6 Trophy modified to resemble a war era motorcycle. McQueen also starred in the Academy Award–nominated 1971 documentary On Any Sunday, chronicling motorcycle racing in various forms in the early Seventies. The featured motorcycle on display is a Harley-Davidson XR750, a motorcycle highlighted in the film.
For the classic film Lawrence of Arabia, the motorcycle displayed is a 1929 Brough Superior J 680. Lawrence later died in a motorcycle crash in England while riding his beloved Brough.
A 1972 Honda CB 350 Four on display is the same as was featured in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.
The film exploits of motorcycle daredevil Evel Knievel are shown through the display of a 1968 Triumph T-100R and a 1977 Harley-Davidson SS125.
The Deeley Exhibition represents one of the largest private collections of vintage motorcycles in Canada. Fifty-seven brands of motorcycles are represented. Only 45 of the 300 are Harley-Davidson models.
In 2006, Don James and Malcolm Hunter, owners of Trev Deeley Motorcycles, decided to make a museum part of their new dealership. Former Royal B.C. Museum exhibits director Cooke was brought on to design the museum and curate the exhibits.
The collection originated with Trev Deeley, who had followed his father and grandfather into the transportation business. The internationally recognized motorcycle racer separated motorcycles into its own dealership in the 1950’s. Over his years in business, Deeley put interesting motorcycles aside that were traded in or that were available to purchase.
The Deeley Motorcycle Exhibition attracts 14,000 visitors a year from all over the world.
“I had the idea to incorporate a conference room into the design so rentals would support the museum,” Brent Cooke says. “Hundreds of companies and organization have used the room for parties, training sessions and other uses. Many of those people tour the museum.”
Next year will mark a full century in the motorcycle business for the Deeley organization. Fred Deeley began selling British-built bicycles in Vancouver in the early years of the last century. He added Harley-Davidson motorcycles to his sales floor in 1917, making Deeley’s the second oldest Harley dealer in the world.
The next exhibit at the Deeley Motorcycle Exhibition will illustrate 100 years of motorcycling and is set to open in late 2017, coinciding with Deeley’s 100th Anniversary. For more information visit .