Tuesday, May 29, 2018

The REAL Captain America's Motorcycle by Chris Cantle

via Road & Track: A friend in the Bay Area first pointed out Gary's Davis's Craigslist ad, titled simply: "VINTAGE MOTORCYCLE COLLECTION," and it was enough to induce a spit take. Sitting prominently above it all on a motorcycle-sized shelf is a fiberglass-faired oddity in bright red, white, and blue. That's the Captain America bike.

In 1979, after many dormant years, Captain America made his way to television sets in the form of two TV movies, Captain America and Captain America II: Death Too Soon.The films were an early effort between Universal and Marvel, and they're pretty terrible. Reb Brown, playing ex-Marine-now-artist Steve Rogers, sustains a paralyzing injury and is brought back to health and beyond by an experimental medical procedure. He goes on to fight crime on a motorcycle that bursts through smoke out of a spectacular custom van. Cap's signature bulletproof shield, doubles as the bike's windscreen. Imagine an action movie with the production aesthetics and soundtrack of Columbo, and you'll get the idea. But the bike scenes were great. Even the DVD jacket leans on their quality by advertising that Captain America is "FIGHTING TERROR ON A MOTORCYCLE! GO USA!!!"

And Gary gets all the credit for that. I didn't know Gary Davis was a stuntman, stunt coordinator, director, or even a nice guy when I talked to him the first time over the phone. I just thought he had great taste in bikes. And he does. He's also a world-class badass, with credits on movies like The Amazing Spider-Man, Independence Day, and
Terminator 2.

The Captain America motorcycle, under all that fiberglass and dust, is one of the great bikes of all time. In the film, it sports a ripping GP soundtrack, apparently in an effort to justify the GP-style exhausts hanging out of the fiberglass tail. The machine underneath is a Yamaha TT-500, a snapping and snorting two-valve single. Its twin, the XT500, won the inaugural Paris Dakar Rally. If I were choosing a sidekick in 1979, it'd probably be a Yamaha 500
single. At least the studio got that right. I pester Gary into telling me about the thing. "It was built at the studio, but I oversaw it. I had to, I was riding it. I didn't like that it blocked so
much air. It was a little edgy, with all that fiberglass and those wheel covers. You would catch a lot of wind. Up in the air if there was any little crosswind, you really felt it."

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