GTO 3987 on Mulholland

GTO 3987 on Mulholland

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Bud Ekins

I once drove my GTO to Phoenix, Arizona in order to break in the engine after a rebuild. I chose the destination because my mentor, the television director Paul Stanley, was directing an episode of Then Came Bronson on location there. The series was sort of like Route 66 on a motorcycle starring Michael Parks. I left Los Angeles late one evening and arrived in Phoenix the next morning. I don't think I went over 5500 rpm the entire trip.

It was fun getting to know the car driving through the desert in the middle of the night listening to the V12 engine singing its song. The next day, I met up with the production and it seemed I gave rides to the entire crew during their lunch break. I met Michael Parks who pretty much kept to himself. I also met Michael Burns who had been a child actor whose career carried on into his adult years and who introduced me to Ramos Gin Fizzes for which I am eternally grateful. I also ended up spending most of an afternoon with some guy sitting in a station wagon in order to stay out of the desert sun. The guy liked motorcyles. Whenever Michael Park's character needed to be seen on his motorcyle, it was this guy who rode the bike. The guy's name was Bud Ekins.

I knew Bud's name because he had a motorcyle shop in Sherman Oaks. The name was also familiar to me because he had stunt-doubled Steve McQueen in Bullitt. Bud drove the McQueen Mustang in many of the scenes--whenever the rear-view mirror is turned down, it's Bud at the wheel. He also put down the motorcycle on the freeway during the chase scene, his only protection being his leathers and a helmet. Bud was equally famous for having made the motorcycle jump in The Great Escape. I say famous, but perhaps only to those close to the business, for the public was allowed to believe that McQueen performed the jump. We talked a lot about McQueen--Bud had only good things to say about him--and about the making of Bullitt. He spoke of Carey Lofton who also worked on Bullitt, but I don't recall any mention of Bill Hickman who drove the Dodge Charger in the film. Bud was an easy conversationalist and as unpretentious as anyone could be. I could see how he and McQueen would get along together.

This encounter reminds me of how, yet again, I was able to meet an extraordinary individual thanks to the extraordinary car that I owned for a few years. Had I not needed to break in the GTO's engine, I doubt I would have made the trip to Phoenix and I never would have spent that afternoon shooting the breeze with Bud Ekins.

No comments: