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Captain America bike goes on display at EMP in Seattle

One of the most iconic motorcycles in the world – the “Captain America” chopper from the landmark film, Easy Rider is now on display at EMP Museum.

Actor Peter Fonda rode the motorcycle in the highly influential 1969 counterculture film that depicted the psychedelic journey of two freewheeling hippies and a drunken lawyer. Starring Fonda, Dennis Hopper and Jack Nicholson, the independent film helped launch an exciting era of film making called New Hollywood.

Chopper builders Cliff Vaughs and Ben Hardy, with suggestions from Fonda, created this distinctive motorcycle, known for its stretched out wheel-base, retracted handlebars, and tall sissy bar, or backrest. Called the “Captain America” bike because of the stars and stripes painted on its gas tank, the motorcycle was partially destroyed in the film’s final scene, then rebuilt years later. The success of Easy Rider helped popularize choppers throughout the world.

But it was the road to the iconic film that was interesting as well. Biker movies first appeared in the 1950's with The Wild One starring Marlon Brando.

In the mid-1960 dozens of biker movies were made. One of the regulars was Jack Nicholson, a Warner Brothers property by then. Nicholson can be seen in Hells Angels on Wheels (1967), Easy Rider (1969) and took his final biker bow in Rebel Rousers (1970).

Fonda on the other hand had several sequences of biker movie appearances, his first being Wild Angels (1966). Who can forget the line "We want to be free to ride our machines without being hassled by The Man!" Easy Rider came in 1969 and then he took a 28 year hiatus from biker movies until 2007 when he starred in Ghost Rider and made an appearance in Wild Hogs.

Hopper made his first biker appearance in Easy Rider and returned to the biker screen in 2008 playing Eddie Zero in Quinten Tarrentino's Hell Ride. 

Hopper was also the director of Easy Rider and wrote a pseudo screenplay together with Fonda and Terry Southern reportedly during a drug induced weekend in Malibu. Shooting began in February of 1968, but the film didn't make it to the screen until the summer of 1969. Hoppers' directors cut was 220 minutes when delivered it to the studio, but it was cut to 95 minutes by editor, Henry Jaglom, with most of the outtakes believed to be lost.

The budget was $360,000 -- the filmed grossed 60 million.

During the July 2015 Sasquatch Dual Sport tour through the Oregon coastal ranges, a Peter Fonda wanna-be arrived in fitting attire with the appropriate helmet at the breakfast location in Port Orford on a Captain American replica, which goes to show, passion for the movie still goes on today -- or some folks are just plain nuts?

The bike is expected to remain on display in the main lobby of EMP through the end of the year.

SR/September 15 

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