Steve McQueen - a career in collectible cars and motorbikes


2015-06-26 13:22:27


Steve McQueen - a career in collectible cars and motorbikes

We trace Steve McQueen's remarkable career through his magnificent car collection

Steve McQueen, aka The King of Cool, was many things to many different people: a millionaire crime mastermind in The Thomas Crown Affair, an Allied POW in The Great Escape, Papillon the safecracker, or Lt Frank Bullitt.

However, in the collectibles world, he is perhaps best remembered for his astonishing collector cars and motorbikes. A life-long petrolhead, McQueen established a collection that rivals the finest ever seen, and that still affects the market today.

Ahead of two forthcoming sales of key pieces from his collection, take a look at some of the finest motors in his legendary life and career:

1946 Indian Chief

Steve McQueen Indian Chief 1946McQueen'sfirst bike auctions next month

This stunning bike was McQueen's first, and will be sold as part of Auctions America's August 1-3 auction in California.

Accordingto Matt Stone's 2007 book, McQueen's Machines: The Cars and Bikes of a Hollywood Icon, by 1951 McQueen had "saved enough money to buy a battered cycle with a sidecar, which he proudly tooled around the Village".

McQueen himself said of the Indian: "It was my first bike and I loved it, but I was going with a girl who began to hate the cycle - just hated riding in the bumpy sidecar. She told me, 'either the cycle goes or I go!' Well, there was no contest. She went."

Thankfully, the "battered cycle" has since undergone a full restoration and is "in need of nothing" according to the auction house.

Triumph TT Special 650

The Indian Chief kick-started McQueen's lifelong love of motorcycles, and in 1963 he starred in The Great Escape, where he took centre stage in the dramatic escape scene on the back of a Triumph TT Special 650.

The British-made Triumph was decked out in olive drab and made to look like a wartime German BMW by the addition of a luggage rack and an old seat.

As McQueen explained to writer William Nolan: "We couldn't use a real BMW, not at the speeds we were running, since those babies were rigid-frame jobs and couldn't take the punishment."

Steve's need for speed meant that he kept outrunning the German stuntmen that were chasing him, so he decided to take over their roles as well, chasing himself for the final cut.

Dune buggy

Millionaire criminal mastermind Thomas Crown lives on a beach in 1968's The Thomas Crown Affair, so it was only fitting that he should have a dune buggy in which to flee his would-be captors.

Built around a Volkswagen chassis, McQueen actually helped design the dune buggy, fitting it with a 230HPCorvair engine.

Like most of his films, he completed all of the stunts himself, with the brave Faye Dunaway in the passenger seat beside him.

1968 Ford Mustang GT 390 Fastback

In one of McQueen's greatest chase scenes, Bullitt sees the star hurtling through the hilly streets of San Francisco at speeds of 100mph+. Chasing a Dodge Charger, McQueen told Motor Trend magazine:

"My car was disintegrating. Like, the door handles came off, both the shocks in the front broke, the steering armature on the right front side broke and my slack was about a foot and a half. The Mustang was really just starting to fall apart."

As such, there were two cars used for the film, with the surviving example sold off to a collector once filming had been completed. Reportedly, McQueen tried to buy the car in 1974, but the collector was, understandably, unwilling to part with it.

The tweed jacket that McQueen wore as Frank Bullitt will be sold by Profiles in History on July 29 with an $800,000 estimate.

Gulf-Porsche 917K

McQueen's Le Mans is hailed as one of the best racing films ever made, with the actor determined to make the epic as realistic as possible.

The actual Porsche 917K used in the film was sold through RM Auctions in 2000 and is now in the collection of comedian Jerry Seinfeld.

However, there were actually 13 replica cars used in the film, most of which were completely destroyed during the famous crash scene where the Porsche is seen to plough into the barriers.

These were actually outdated Lola T70s, one of which appeared at Silverstone Auctions in February 2013.

The iconic Heuer Monaco watch worn by McQueen in Le Mans sold for $799,500 atProfiles in Historyin August 2012.

McQueen's Chevrolet camper van

Steve McQueen pickupThe pickup was bought on a whim from a migrant worker, but served McQueen well in his final days

Steve McQueen was well known for his spur of the moment purchases, reaching for his cheque book every time he fell in love with a particular car.

This Chevrolet pickup camper conversion was the last vehicle he rode in before his death from cancer in November 1980, which he bought from a farm worker.

His wife, Barbara, recalls, "I remember one time we drove past a migrant farm worker who had this bitchin' old truck and Steve turned the car around and wrote him a check on the spot."

Used to transport McQueen in his final days, the truck will be sold at Mecum Auctions on July 26.

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