On May 11, 1930, James Bud Ekins was born in Hollywood, California, the eldest of five children. Most of his family worked in the movie business, his mother as an extra and his uncles training animals. His father owned a welding shop. Ekins purchased his first motorcycle as a teenager after riding his cousin’s Harley-Davidson and getting the speedometer stuck at 65 miles per hour on his first ever ride. He purchased a used 1940 Triumph and riding it as much as possible, he learned the back roads and trails of the Hollywood Hills. As he rode he met other riders, and they raced for fun doing hound and hare runs. In 1949 he participated in his first official race, the Moose Run and won it, a trend which would continue throughout his career. Once he started racing he kept at it for nearly the next two decades.
He raced scrambles and desert races every weekend around Southern California throughout the 1950s. He earned the state title seven times. Having proved his skills in the states, Matchless Motorcycles offered him a spot on their factory team to race motocross in Europe in 1952. He would continue to race in Europe for the next ten years. He took part in the International Six Day Trails (ISDT) and weekly motocross races. He won the ISDT four times and place second there once in the seven year period he took part in the race. He would spend months at a time living in Europe, renting apartments in cities such as London and Paris. The Europeans paid their athletes for their efforts and while there he made a good living racing.
He took the success from his European experiences and applied it hid life in the States. He monetarily applied it and opened a motorcycle shop in Hollywood in 1955. By then he had switched his sponsorship to Triumph Motorcycles and as result became a Triumph dealer. Triumphs at the time happened to be the motorcycle that the movie stars of the day desired and he was in the perfect location to sell them the bikes. His customers and friends included Steve McQueen, Paul Newman and Clint Eastwood. Ekins ran the shop for 18 years when he focused his energies on performing movie stunt work.
The Hollywood connections made through his shop along with the incredible respect he had earned as a skilled rider landed him in the stunt business. He preformed motorcycle stunts and also took on the occasional stunt out of his area of expertise. He is best know for the work he did as McQueen’s stuntman in “The Great Escape,” landing the now famous 65 foot jump in one try. In the movie “Bullit” he laid his bike over in front of a speeding truck. He worked with John Bellucci in the “Blues Brothers” crashing over 100 police cars. He also did stunt driving and even took on the rare team of horses.
Ekins' adventures continued outside of the studios. Prior to the organized Mexican 1000 a number of men took on timed runs for speed records across Baja. Dave Ekins, Bud’s brother did one such run in 1962 for Honda Motorcycles shattering all previous records. Bud sat the run out because of his sponsorship agreement with Triumph. In 1964 he joined his brother for an attempt to break Dave’s earlier record. They did break it, however they only broke it by eight minutes, crossing the Baja in 39 hours and 48 minutes, the whole time filled various mechanical difficulties. Their speed record proved an inspiration and challengers followed in buggies and trucks. A challenge on their time by Ed Pearlman lead to Pearlman’s epiphany that an organized race needed to take place there and the Mexican 1000 was born. Ekins would go on to race Pearlman’s Mexican 1000. In addition to racing motorcycles Ekins raced four wheeled off-road vehicles. From racing the motorcycle he understood how to read the terrain and the transition to vehicles was not difficult. He worked with fellow Hall of Fame Inductee, Vic Hickey to build the Baja Boot. He raced with Hickey for five years. He drove three races for Steve McQueen. Drino Miller, a Hall of Fame Inductee and he co-drove “The Thing” in numerous desert races. During the 1980s and 1990s Ekins owned a second motorcycle shop in Hollywood that had one of the most extensive collections of working vintage motorcycles in the world. Sources: Author Interview with Bud Ekins, July 2006 Fiolka, Marty. 2005. 1000 Miles to Glory, The History of the Baja 1000. Phoenix, AZ.: David Bull Publishing.