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 launcher.

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 role.)

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 cancelled.

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.