Monday, May 3, 2010

The eagle has landed

In the 1976 movie "The eagle has landed", Donald Sutherland is supposed to ride a Royal Enfield Flying Flea. The bike has an interesting story. Here it is in the words of Bill Crosby, the owner of Reg Allen, the main Royal Enfield dealer in London today: "The long hot summer found Bill enjoying himself lurking round the film locations of The Eagle Has Landed. He had been contacted by a desperate location crew who were having trouble with the Royal Enfield Flying Flea that Donald Sutherland’s character, Devlin, had to ride. It was difficult to start and unreliable – they needed both faults dealt with! Now! The bike was delivered to the shop and Bill soon realised that it was never going to be as reliable as they wanted it to be. When he reported this to the film rep. he was asked to get another one. After some discussion, Bill managed to get them to understand that he could not find another bike just like that and even if he could, it would not be any better than the one they had! He was asked if he could put a more reliable engine into the bike he had in the workshop. After some thought, he bought a complete 125c.c. Yamaha from the local dealer, Broadway Cycles in Hanwell Broadway, and grafted the engine into the little Flea. By spraying some areas with Dag he was able to tone down parts of the engine and exhaust that needed disguising, but nothing could be done in the time allotted ( a long holiday weekend) with the gear change. He left the hand change lever in place, but gear changes would have to be done with the left foot from now on. The modified bike worked well but their paranoia was such that they insisted Bill stayed on location for all the shots the bike was needed for. He became known on set as Bill the Bike and thoroughly enjoyed being part of the film crew, but had to pay an Australian mate to stand in the shop and field enquiries from customers. It was only after all the excitement had died down that Bill was told the original bike belonged to another local bike shop – Knights - who knew nothing of the alterations until the bike was returned to them. Things were settled amicably by the film makers in the end."


  1. Fascinating! Just the sort of thing Gordon May could use, about now!

  2. Very interesting , I am a bit gutted that they used a jap engine

  3. My first motorcycle was a Royal Enfield Flea. I never had starting problems with it, but a problem I did have was that the engine would some times run in reverse when I stopped at traffic lights. It was when the engine almost died and I revved it to keep going. Unfortunately, with ignition being slightly before TDC it could send the piston back from whence it came, and being as it was a two stroke it would run happily in reverse. It was a bit disconcerting when the lights changed to green and I dropped the clutch. Instead of going forwards, I would shoot backwards - straight into the front of the car behind me on one occasion.



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