The eighties was a great era for cars, sports and television programs. People who were alive during the era were fortunate to witness cars such as the Ferrari F40, the Toyota MR2 Supercharged, and Lincoln Mark VI Continental at their peaks, as well as watched cool programs such as Knight Rider, The A-Team and Magnum P.I. One of the programs that those people would have also watched was Street Hawk, a superhero series that aired on ABC for thirteen episodes in 1985. Although the program lasted for only one season, the original plot and the action impressed audiences.
Rex Smith played Jesse Mach, a police officer, and amateur dirt-bike racer, who leads a double life, as a police public relations officer by day and a crimefighter by night. The premise of the show was an injured cop recruited for a top secret government mission to ride Street Hawk, an all-terrain motorbike designed to fight crime. Street Hawk was to Jesse what KITT was to Michael, an incredible machine that provided real-time mission information and fostered a collection of weapons.
Many fans tuned in to watch Mach ride Street Hawk to catch the bad guys, but most knew little information about the motorbike. We went back in time to discover what most Street Hawk fans don't know about the bike and found intriguing facts.
Producers used three different types of bikes during the filming of the program. What most viewers don't know is that the producers used a different bike for the street riding and the stunts.
For the stunts, the producers used a 1984 Honda CR250. The stunt coordinator wanted to use the turbocharged Honda CX500 for performance-related sequences. Although the Street Hawk was an anomaly, a 1984 Honda CR250 contained new features, such as the hydraulic front disc brake and a new exhaust valve. The later models underwent minor changes such as Showa front suspension, a bigger carburetor and a hydraulic rear brake.
During the filming of the show, Jesse had to perform many stunts to catch the bad guys with Street Hawk. Since Street Hawk was cruising at high speeds and leaping, some of the parts would fall off during the filming. One of those parts was the fiberglass, which constantly fell off the bike.
The modifiers were on standby to fix the bike whenever the parts fell off, but regardless of the amount of effort they exuded, some of the parts wouldn't stay on the bike.
Street Hawk was unlike any bike in history, so it shouldn't come as a surprise that the bike had features that you won't find on the latest model. Since Jesse did most of the crime-fighting at night, he needed to have gadgets that enabled him to have clear visibility at all times.
One of the special features that the bike had was an infrared camera and a compressed air vertical system. I'm surprised that infrared cameras existed in the '80s, never-mind on a motorbike. Considering Jesse's bike was unlike any other, he could record footage at night.
One of the aspects of a superhero program that lures in audiences is when the main actor performs some of the stunts. Nothing puts audiences off more than seeing a stunt double do all the tricks while the main actor gets the credit. Although Smith had a few stuntmen perform tricks that were death-defying, he also performed a lot of the stunts in the program.
Smith wanted the audiences to buy into his role as Jesse Mach and knew that the best way to do that was to perform some of the stunts.
The producers knew that the stunts would inflict damage to the bikes, but they weren't expecting the amount of punishment that the bikes took. Since the stuntmen performed dangerous stunts with the bike, they pushed the Street Hawk to its limits. Fortunately for the producers, the filming of the program was at Universal Studios, allowing them to take the bike for repairs at the Universal Studios Effects Shop.
Since producers used fifteen bikes and performed incredible stunts with the bikes, the Street Hawks were always at the shop for repairs.
As mentioned previously, the producers used three different bikes during the filming. Each bike suited a particular scene, so the producers used a 1983 Honda XL500 during the pilot episode. Although Street Hawk was a special design, consumers who purchase a 1983 Honda XL500 can get it for a few hundred bucks.
In the '80s, the XL500 might have been a special bike, but it is outdated. Consumers who want to purchase it can find it under a thousand dollars if they search well. You won't get the Street Hawk for that much, but it will be an XL500.
Producing a show such as Street Hawk required a lot of effort and careful planning. The plans didn't always unfold according to the jotted outline, and accidents occurred. Considering that Jesse had to perform numerous stunts with the bike, the producers needed several bikes to ensure perfect execution. Some of the stunts didn't go according to plan, so the producers needed to replace the bikes.
During the shooting, producers used a 1983 Honda XL500, three 1984 Honda XR500s and eleven 1984 Honda CR250s.
To fight crime and catch the bad guys, every superhero that aired on our screens had a fast ride. Batman had the Batmobile and Michael had KITT, so it's fitting that Jesse's bike should be fast.
The top speed of the Street Hawk was 200 mph, but it could reach 300 mph with Hyperthrust. Having that much speed, Jesse didn't struggle to catch up with the bad guys. Considering the program aired in the '80s, reaching 300 mph must've been a challenge for Jesse. The speed of the bike was fictional.
After the designers completed the drawings of Street Hawk, producers needed a competent vehicle customizer to fit the Street Hawk to make it look like a warrior. Who better to do the job than Gene Winfield Rod and Custom Construction.
Gene Winfield attracted the attention of the film industry, leading to several of his productions premiering on the big screen, such as the iconic 1982 film Blade Runner. The producers trusted Winfield to deliver a sublime product, which he did.
KITT was a great ride, and Airwolf was a helicopter that flew like no other flying machine could. Since KITT and Airwolf received praise from audiences for being unique vehicles, Street Hawk deserved the same recognition.
While Hollywood studios have displayed KITT and Airwolf as prized possessions, Cars To The Stars Museum in London is the proud host of Street Hawk. Fans who want to peak at one of the bikes and outfits used in the show can go to the museum to snap pictures of this unique concept.
Besides using three different Honda models, the producers also had four different designs for the bike. Andrew Probert was responsible for the original design, used in the pilot episode and didn't contain missile launchers or machine guns. Ron Cobb was responsible for the second design. The nose contained a missile launcher and machine guns. The body of Cobb's bike is also different from Probert's design.
The other change in the design was a bike that had an exhaust without detail and another design with the bike having a rounder nose, according to Street Hawk Online.
Fans were devastated when the producers announced after the filming of the first season that Street Hawk would not return for the second. Once the producers packed up their gear, they had several bikes they no longer needed. If you want to sell your second-hand goods, one of the best places to do that is on eBay.
One of the "Hawks" sold on eBay for a measly $12,000. Considering that Street Hawk was a classic program and the bike had a unique design, I'm surprised it sold for such a low amount.
Jesse Mach fought most of the bad guys in the city, but some situations required him to go off-road. Since Jesse had to have the same capabilities on the dirt as on the highway, the producers ensured that Street Hawk had great off-road capability. That is one of the reasons they chose the Honda CR250 for the stunt scenes.
The bike had great off-road capability, as it could handle a hard landing after Jesse leaped towards the criminals. The bike was an all-terrain machine.
Some people love their jobs so much that they take it home with them. Although viewers saw Rex Smith's face on the screen, he had a few stuntmen help him in death-defying scenes. One of those stuntmen was Chris Bromham. When Smith couldn't leap into the air with Street Hawk, Bromham took over to make him look good.
Bromham also purchased one of the original Street Hawks and holds two records in the Guinness Book of Records. He had to sell the bike when his wife passed away but repurchased it later.
Fans were devastated when the producers announced after the thirteen episodes filmed that the show would not continue. After filming ended, Rex Smith, who played Jesse Mach, pursued a singing career. Although he did well in the music industry, his desire to return to the screen to fight crime on a motorbike propelled him to petition for a reboot.
Smith was determined to get 100,000 signatures from fans who wanted a reboot of the program before he could present it to a television network, according to Eighties Kids. So far, no luck.
When a superhero program aired that became popular, the next step for the producers was to plague the market with toys from the program. Since Street Hawk garnered a big following, the natural progression was for producers to design Street Hawk toys. Some of the collection of toys includes bikes, helmets, and walkie-talkies.
Adult fans who wanted gear from the show could purchase the outfit that Jesse wore, as well as helmets. Some of the toys are still available on eBay and Amazon.
Although the producers used several bikes and designs, the original design belonged to Andrew Probert. Science fiction fans will know Probert for his design contributions to Star Trek: The Next Generation. Probert also worked on the design of Airwolf, as well as the design of the DeLorean in Back to the Future. He put a lot of effort into each aspect of the bike to design a superb machine.
The producers used Probert's design to build a Street Hawk that they used in the pilot episode.
Andrew Probert was responsible for the original design of the Street Hawk, used in the pilot episode, but Ron Cobb redesigned the bike for the series. Cobb is an Illustrator and Cinema production designer, who worked on movies such as Alien. His design was different from Probert's, as the nose contained a missile launcher and machine guns.
The body that Cobb designed is also different from the one used in the pilot episode, according to News Cafe Society. The body of the bike is wider, and the exhaust doesn't have as much detail.
Since the Street Hawks were always at the repair shop, the mechanics needed to fit the bikes with new parts every day of shooting. The mechanics had fifteen bikes to work on and needed new parts regularly. To ensure the repairs didn't delay the production, the producers contracted a motorcycle shop, three miles away from Universal Studios, to deliver the parts.
The arrangement worked well for both parties, but the motorcycle parts shop was disappointed after the production of the show ended.
The producers used Gene Winfield's customization expertise to build the Street Hawk for the series, but it was two Motorcyclist Magazine staffers who built the motorcycle for the pilot episode from their Hancock Park, Los Angeles garage.
Jeff Karr and Dexter Ford combined parts from an electric start Honda 500 Ascot with the chassis of a dual-sport XL500. All big things start small, so the two gentlemen were responsible for producing the most famous bike on TV from a garage.
If you look into the history of television, you'll notice that numerous shows featured a car (the most popular was KITT). Motorbike enthusiasts are spoiled for choice when they have to select a motorbike program, but none of the programs are like Street Hawk.
Although it's been more than thirty years since the show aired, Street Hawk remains the only superhero show that used a motorbike as the main vehicle to fight crime. No wonder Street Hawk is one of the vehicles at the Cars to the Stars Museum in London.
The official number of replicas in production was two. Although a few fans have tried to replicate the bikes, the official replicas are from the people involved in the show. Since producers sold some of the bikes after production ended, the people involved in the show thought that replicas would be the best alternative. One of the replicas is for the bike featured in the pilot episode, and the other is a replica of the series bike.
I don't doubt that the replicas will be on sale for an exorbitant amount.
Jesse Mach needed to use his hands to fight the bad guys, so producers wanted him to ride the bike while using his hand-skills. The only way they could do that was to fit the bike with an autopilot function.
While Jesse was reaching with his hands to catch the bad guys, the autopilot function enabled the bike to cruise. It seems that airplanes aren't the only ones with autopilot function, but Street Hawk is unlike any other bike, so it shouldn't surprise fans to know that the bike could ride without Jesse's hands.
The stunt bike was the CR250, and the pilot one was a 1983 Honda XL500, but the bike that audiences saw the most was the Honda XR500. Honda introduced the XR500 in 1979, as a four-stroke four-valve engine.
In 1983, Honda revised the bike with a new dry-sump RFVC 5-speed engine with dual header pipes, producing more power and easier starting. Fans of the 1984 Honda XR500 can purchase the bike for just over a thousand dollars. It won't be the Street Hawk, but it's still a Honda.
Sources: Street Hawk Online, The New Cafe Racer Society, Eighties Kids