Learn more about this beloved television motorcycle…
For just 1 season of 13 episodes, Street Hawk entertained viewers on ABC in 1985. Despite that short run, the motorcycle used in the TV show has fascinated enthusiasts since. It’s not hard to understand why, considering the protagonist wore all black and sped around on his motorcycle at 300 mph. If you’re wondering what it really was and what the backstory of the bike is, we’re about to dive into that and more.
Learn about efforts to start a new Knight Rider series here.
Street Hawk was described in the show’s intro voiceover as “an all-terrain attack motorcycle designed to fight urban crime.” It was armed to the teeth with a laser cannon, machine guns, and a rocket launcher, all of which would be necessary when waging a one-man war on drug cartels and other organized criminal organizations. The motorcycle was also supposed to be armed with a compressed air vertical lift system and infrared cameras. Maybe Elon Musk could use it as inspiration and bless the world with a Tesla motorcycle next.
The story goes that Jesse Mach is the one who rides Street Hawk. We like to think the guy’s last name is a nod to the Mustang Mach 1 but it could just as easily be in remembrance of Ernst Mach, the Austrian physicist who is the namesake of Mach numbers, which stand for supersonic speed. Ultimately, it sounded cool and mysterious, which was the vibe of the entire show.
For the extended pilot episode, showrunners used a 1983 Honda XL500 to wow audiences and secure a short slate of episodes for the first and sadly only season. Once the regular season started, the motorcycles were 1984 Honda XR500s. We bet most viewers didn’t notice the difference since the two bikes look similar enough. On top of that, the motorcycles wore cosmetic modifications since such a top-secret bike couldn’t look just ordinary.
Those Honda XL500 and XR500s were the bikes used for closeups and wide-angle shots, but they didn’t perform any of the stunts. For all those action shots, the crew used Honda CR250s. Of course, quite a bit of movie magic was involved to make the motorcycles look like they were doing the impossible. A constant struggle, various fiberglass parts fabricated to make the bikes look different would go flying off during stunts. Those stunt bikes also blew through a lot of OE parts since they were being jumped and pushed well beyond reasonable usage. Some of those Hollywood effects look cheesy in today’s CGI-saturated world, but the crew did the best they could at the time with a small budget. Speaking of stunts, Rex Smith who played Mach did most of his own riding with a stunt double used only for the most dangerous sequences.
It’s claimed a total of 15 motorcycles were used throughout the filming of season one. Where all those bikes ended up seems to be a mystery. The whereabouts of only 1 bike is known. It used to be housed a museum called Cars of the Stars Motor Museum, which was located in England, but the facility shut down.
Most memorable among all the special abilities of Street Hawk was “Hyperthrust.” Pressing that button, Mach could get the motorcycle up to 300 mph. To make the Honda appear as if it were traveling at that mind-boggling speed, the production crew employed some pretty questionable tactics.
A petition started by Rex Smith seeks to reboot Street Hawk for the 21st Century. While that might sound cool, considering how many awful franchise reboots we’ve seen in recent years, there’s no telling what kinds of liberties a studio would take with the classic show today. Sure, it might turn out great, or it could become the kind of disaster CW has churned out with the Batwoman series.