Street Hawk - an all
terrain attack motorcycle designed to fight urban crime. Capable of
incredible speeds up to 300 miles per hour, and immense fire power
ranging from machine guns, to a particle beam, to a miniaturized missile
The name Street Hawk would apply
to the rider of the motorcycle as well as to the motorcycle itself on
the series of the same name, which debuted January 4, 1985 on ABC at
9PM, and lasted 13 episodes before it was cancelled on May 16, 1985. The
show starred Rex Smith as police officer Jesse Mach, an ex-motorcycle
cop who is injured when his partner (played by Star Trek: Voyager's
Robert Beltran) was murdered by a drug dealer (played by Christopher
Lloyd) who then ran over Mach's knee.
Also starring were Joe Regalbuto
as Federal Agent Norman Tuttle, who designed the Street Hawk motorcycle
and reluctantly recruits Mach as its rider, Richard Venture as Commander
Leo Altobelli, Mach's boss at the police department who is unaware of
Mach's duel identity as Street Hawk, and Jeannie Wilson as Mach's
co-worker Rachel Adams. (Jayne Modean played Rachel Adams in the pilot
episode but ABC believed she was too young for the role, and the part
went to Wilson, whom producer Burton Armus believed was too old for the
The series was created by Bruce
Lansbury, but he never worked on the show. Producer Burton Armus was no
stranger to the 'supervehicle' series as he worked on Airwolf
during its first season, and did two seasons of Knight Rider. The executive
producers of the show, however, were two inexperienced, yet highly
opinionated, individuals named Robert Wolterstorff and Paul Belous. For
Wolterstorff and Belous, Street Hawk was the first, and last, show
they were ever put in charge of.
The show itself was a crime drama
with Mach racing around hoping to stop the bad guys with the Street Hawk
motorcycle. Tuttle sat in an abandoned warehouse refitted to be a
central command center where he could monitor Mach's actions and the
bike's functions, including the computer assist hyperthrust which
launched the bike into incredible speeds up to, and even past, 300 mph.
The bike itself was a modified 1983 XL500 from Honda, which was used in
the pilot. For later episodes an XR500 was used with 11 1984 Honda
XCR250's used for stunts.
Four bikes were made for the show
outside of stunt use. The bike for the pilot was designed by Andrew
Probert with Ron Cobb designing the later bikes. When the series ended
one bike sold for $12,000 on eBay. The buyer? Chris Bromhan, a stuntman
on the show.
Despite the show having a cult
following, and a budget of $850,000 an episode, Street Hawk had a lot
of problems, according to producer Burton Armus.
First was the bike itself, which
was always in transition and constantly in need of repair. Producer
Armus did not believe that the bike was the brute that it should have
been. If the decision was up to him, Armus said that he would have
preferred using a 1500cc Harley with full cowling, solid roll bars and
additional armaments and weapons.
Another problem was the choice of
Rex Smith to play Jesse Mach. Armus's view of Smith was that Smith was
not 'dangerous enough' to be a series hero. Smith brought a sense of
naivety and youthfulness to the Mach character, but he wasn't considered
to be on the 'star' level that David Hasslehoff and Jan-Michael Vincent
were with their portrayals of Michael Knight on Knight Rider and Stringfellow
Hawke on Airwolf.
Other problems lay with the
executive producers Robert Wolterstorff and Paul Belous and their
inexperience at running a show. This inexperience led to line
difficulties with the crew and one or two bad decisions. One example:
due to production delays, an explosion was not filmed and, instead
of removing the charges, Belous ordered the site be blown up without the
safety measures in place. In the process the windows of a synagogue on
Wilshire Blvd, and a high rise were blown out spewing shrapnel
everywhere. When Street Hawk ended neither Belous or Wolterstorff were
ever heard from again.
But the main problem perceived
with the show was that it never caught on. In a world where shows like
Airwolf and Knight Rider made their debuts there wasn't
any room for Street Hawk. The show apparently came too little, too late, and was
The pilot episode however did go
out on VHS and was seen on some video and library shelves. It also had a
brief resurgence of popularity during the UHF boom of the late 80's,
like Voyagers and Battlestar Galactica had. It also had a limited
merchandise run during its first airing ranging from walkie-talkies,
shooting ranges, I.D. sets, color/activity books, and four novels
published in 1985 by Target Books of London. The theme music was sold on
an album made by the show's composers, 'Tangerine Dream'.
After Street Hawk, Venture, Wilson and Modean
would fade into obscurity. Smith would have one more role as Daredevil/Matt Murdock in the second Incredible Hulk TV movie, Trial of the
Incredible Hulk with Bill Bixby, before he, too, dropped off the TV
radar. Joe Regalbuto, however, would enjoy years of success on the CBS
sitcom Murphy Brown as
investigative reporter Frank 'was there another guy?' Fontana.
A fun show cut down by lack of
popularity and experience of the executive producers. Yet it still
maintains a cult following today. The man...the machine...Street Hawk.
Written by JSC1
Our thanks to Dan Rendell of
for his invaluable contributions to this page.