David Essex in "Silver Dream Racer"

"In 1981, bikes were huge, largely thanks to the efforts of a certain Mr Sheene (no not the furniture polish). So it was inevitable that some movie maker or another would eventually exploit the fact on the silver screen.

The result was either the worst or best bike film ever made, depending on your viewpoint. On the plus side, Silver Dream Racer was like Rocky on two wheels - poor boy takes all the shit then makes good, gets the girl, ya-de-ya. On the downside, the chances of finding a piece of shit bike in your brother's shed then winning the 500cc world championship in one race only to have a fatal tankslapper crossing the finish line are improbable at best.

But that's just what happened in the 1981 movie starring none other than gypsy Seventies pin-up boy David Essex.

Essex himself was only insured to ride the bike at speeds of up to 15mph even though he was a keen biker in real life. But according to former racer and the BBC's current WSB commentator Steve Parrish, the bike wasn't capable of much more anyway. He says: "It was the biggest pile of shit I've ever ridden."

Parrish tested the bike in France because it was actually developed with the aim of racing in real life before the film crew realised its film star potential.

The Silver Dream Machine was actually a Barton, two-stroke, square four cylinder home-brew special and was initially designed for sidecar racing before finding immortality (or infamy, if you prefer) on the big screen. The engine did in fact find its way back into a sidecar when it took third place at the Isle of Man TT in the hands of Nigel Rollinson in the eighties.

Former British champion and ex-Red Bull Ducati team manager Roger Marshall did much of the riding for the film and helped Essex polish up on his 15mph riding technique. Marshall explains in his biography Roger and Out by Keith Martin that he was paid the handsome sum of £200 per day for filming which in 1980 was not to be sniffed at.

Other benefactors were the brothers Harris of Harris Performance who provided endless screens, footpegs and other trinkets to the film company who were trashing stacks of bikes every week for the film's crash sequences. Harris says: "We probably sold more parts those few weeks than we've ever done." "