Motorcycle Monday: Automan

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Remember this 1980s television motorcycle?

Back in the early 80s computer technologies were something only nerds worried about, but Automan helped make a lasting impression on gearheads. While the television series featured a pretty cool Lamborghini Countach LP400 which could carve up the streets as if it were a slot car, we’re focusing on the digital superhero’s two-wheeled ride, his equally impressive motorcycle.

Do you remember the motorcycles in Battlestar Galactica? Click here.

That motorcycle, which could suddenly be rendered out of thin air, was able to accelerate faster than anything else at the time. It could also make a 90-degree turn instantly and stop on a dime (quite literally). The bike could even pop wheelies continuously, still allowing the rider to steer and make sharp turns (don’t ask us how that even makes sense). Yes, TV magic is the best kind and in the 80s it produced some of the most ridiculously awesome vehicles, including Automan’s motorcycle.

image credit: YouTube

image credit: YouTube

The plot of Automan is pretty simple: computer nerd Walter Nebicher wants to help solve crimes, but back in the early 80s before computer crimes and forensic science went digital he was pretty much viewed as useless by the police department he worked for. To show he could make a meaningful contribution, Nebicher create a crime-solving artificial intelligence with all the positive attributes he would think of, then it came to life and manifested in the real world as Automan. Together with the Tinkerbell-like Cursor, this Tron-esque crime fighter takes on bad guys with an impressive array of computer-generated devices and a seemingly never-ending array of superpowers.

image credit: YouTube

image credit: YouTube

Running only one season of 13 episodes from 1983 to 1984, it would be tempting to call Automan a complete failure of a TV show. It inspired countless kids in the 80s. With the added parts to make it look different and technologically advanced, it also disguised what Automan really rode. However, in one episode when Automan is undercover with a motorcycle gang, you can clearly see it’s a Yamaha XJ650 Maxim, which was quite the ride back then. However, we don’t know if any other bikes were used during filming since that information isn’t recorded anywhere.

Not surprisingly, Automan was created by none other than Glen A. Larson. If that name doesn’t sound familiar, he’s the guy behind some of the best action television series of the 70s and 80s including Knight Rider, Magnum P.I., Battlestar Galactica, and The Fall Guy. He was way ahead of his time with Automan, just like how Tron back in the day went over most people’s heads.

image credit: YouTube

image credit: YouTube

It’s no coincidence that the visual effects for Automan look so much like those used in the original Tron movie. Larson was involved with that movie’s effects and Automan was supposed to be loosely associated with it, although a parting of ways deep-sixed any overt connection between the two.

Ultimately, it was the high cost of production which spelled doom for Automan. Each episode cost $1 million to make, a hefty price tag even by today’s standards. Not only that, viewership was too low to justify continuing the series, so it was canceled. You can’t help but wonder what would’ve been added to the show’s motorcycle had it gone for a second season or more, but we’ll never know.

There were several other Automan vehicles in the series, including a helicopter, jet, and tank, but we think having a motorcycle which could move like the special effects in the show would be pretty fun.

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