Classic Racer


Forty years on from the hugely complex task of filming it, director David Wickes and star David Essex tell Classic Racer the inside story on the making of the film.

With a budget equivalent to £20 million in today’s money, and one of the biggest pop stars in the world in the lead role, Silver Dream Racer was not only well-funded, it was ambitious.

Very ambitious – because the producers decided that, in the name of realism, they needed to build a one-off motorcycle that was good enough to be entered in the British Motorcycle Grand Prix – something that would be utterly unthinkable now.

The film’s director, David Wickes, was coming straight off the back of a huge box office success with his movie Sweeney! and was in demand. He had also directed episodes of The Sweeney and The Professionals for television and was known for his innovative, guerilla-style film-making. And when the head of production at The Rank Organisation asked him what movie he would like to make next, an idea that had been ruminating in his mind for some time came back to him.

“It was actually the idea of an actor called Michael Billington” he says. “He loved the Isle of Man TT races and he said to me ‘Why don’t you make a movie about the TT?’ But I thought that would attract an audience of about nine people! I couldn’t imagine going to Hollywood and pitching that idea, but making a movie about the motorcycling world championship seemed to have a broader appeal.

“So when Tony Williams at Rank asked me what I wanted to make next I mentioned the idea of a bike racing movie. I told him about Silverstone and the 500cc Grand Prix world championship and reminded him that everyone knew who Barry Sheene and Kenny Roberts were and he liked the idea from the start”

With a green light from the studio, Wickes turned his attention to who would play the film’s hero, privateer racer Nick Freeman. It was an easy choice. “I had learned that David Essex had a few motorcycles and was

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