Page last updated at 10:50 GMT, Friday, 19 December 2008

McQueen motorbike built-to-order

The McQueen Desert Racer
The replica McQueen Desert Racer sells for 12,999 excluding VAT

Replicas of a motorcycle created by Steve McQueen are being built-to-order by a small manufacturer in Oxfordshire.

It is part of a drive to re-launch the classic British motorcycle brand, Metisse, now based near Faringdon.

Screen icon Steve McQueen customised the off-road Desert Racer and rode it competitively in the mid-1960's.

A limited edition of 300 replicas, branded with the actor's signature, are being hand-built by a team of four at workshops in Carswell.

'King of cool'

Metisse sold motorcycle frames in kit-form for British and US bike engines for more than 40 years.

The best-handling bike I've ever owned and the power, it's like supersonic
Steve McQueen

Steve McQueen bought the Desert Racer frame, built it and customised it with his friend and stunt-double, Bud Ekin, who performed the motorcycle jump in the classic McQueen film, The Great Escape.

The actor, nicknamed the "king of cool" for his portrayals of nonchalant, in-control heroes, then raced the bike in competitions in the Californian desert in 1966 and 1967.

Metisse owner, Gerry Lisi, said: "It was mostly a competition bike, used in motor-cross racing and trials. It is a bike from the sixties and Steve McQueen was particularly fond of it.

"He said it was 'The best-handling bike I've ever owned and the power, it's like supersonic'."

'Something special'

Mr Lisi, who has owned Metisse since 2001, said recently the company had been making only marginal profits: "It needed something special to give the company a boost.

"The McQueen bike has done that. We have had a very good response.

"It taps into a different market than normal, more of a collectors market than a go-to-work-on-a-motorbike type market."

The manufacturing team is currently building the 66th commissioned McQueen bike and planning to launch it to the global market in January.

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