50 Years of On Any Sunday: The $1000 Signal Fire

How Bruce Brown and Malcolm Smith staged the memorable desert scene

Words by Mitch Boehm     
Photos courtesy of the Bruce Brown and Malcolm Smith archives

One of the scenes folks remember best is the lost rider in the desert who accidentally torches his Husky while trying to light a signal fire. According to Malcolm, that guy was John Creed, a surfer and friend of Bruce’s who’d go on to run the Chart House restaurant chain for 20 years. “Bruce came up with the idea for the scene,” Malcolm told me, “and I had the perfect bike for it; a repossessed Husqvarna with a blown engine.”

The scene is obviously staged, but the fire was 100% real. Most viewers probably thought the bike was a total loss, but it wasn’t, as Malcolm repainted the fuel tank, replaced the cables, tires and seat, rebuilt the engine, and ended up selling it. “I often wonder who has that bike now,” he says, “though I doubt there’d ever be any way to confirm its history. But it’s out there somewhere, and worth a lot of money.”

This is Part 6 of a 10-part series Thunder Press is publishing throughout January to celebrate On Any Sunday.

Read Part 1 HERE

Read Part 2 HERE

Read Part 3 HERE

Read Part 4 HERE

Read Part 5 HERE

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