The UK’s first all-female stunt display group has reunited for the first time after 40 years apart.
Motobirds formed in Leicester in the 1970s, performing death-defying stunts often with no safety equipment.
Many of the young women answered an advert in the Leicester Mercury for girls to ride motorbikes.
Now in their 60s, six of the original troupe were reunited for the BBC’s The One Show after an appeal by group member Mary Weston-Webb.
The Motobirds formed after one woman joined an all-male motorcycle stunt group and so impressed the manager he advertised for riders.
Mrs Weston-Webb, then Miss Connors, had never ridden a motorbike when she saw the advert in 1972 asking for girls to ride motorbikes, “no experience necessary”.
“I had a very steady, boring job when I saw the advert. I truly believed it would be delivering pizzas.
“I went to this little place in Syston with a sign on the door that said ‘Stunt school for girls. Karate chop twice and enter’ and I thought ‘Wow, this is amazing’.”
The group was given rudimentary motorbike training and within weeks was performing at shows around the country.
Often wearing little more than a bikini and a short skirt, the motorcycle stuntwomen would leap over fireballs or smash through glass panes.
Throughout the 1970s their reputation grew as they appeared on primetime TV and attracted tens of thousands of spectators to shows across Europe.
They began to broaden the stunts they performed, using cars and a human cannon and one annual attraction was an attempt to leap a river.
Hosted in either Tewkesbury or Leicester, they tried – and failed – to fire someone across the Avon or Soar using a variety of different techniques.
During one attempt, knowing the car would not make it across, the doors were removed – meaning it sank straight to the bottom and became trapped in the mud.
On the final attempt, Mrs Weston-Webb’s arm was in a cast and, knowing she needed to keep it dry, they “souped up the catapult”.
She reached the net on the opposite riverbank, only to bounce back into the water.
Over the years, the Motobirds went their separate ways and, after a solo stunt career, Mrs Weston-Webb retired in the mid 1980s.
She teamed up with the BBC to track down her former team-mates, many of whom had married or remarried and changed names, and six of the original troupe, among them Susan Ralph, met up on Friday’s The One Show.
Watching a documentary filmed at the time, Ms Ralph said: “Looking back, the dress is a bit cringey.
“We really believed nothing was going to happen when we did [the stunts]. We didn’t think of the consequences.”
Watch the six women reunite on Friday’s episode of The One Show.