The Best Cars of Steve McQueen
The iconic Steve McQueen is known for two facets of his personality and life: his films (including “Bullitt,” “The Thomas Crown Affair” and “Le Mans”) and the actor’s love of automobiles. There are as many myths and tales surrounding McQueen’s driving antics as there were vehicles packed in his garage.
Several of McQueen’s cars and motorcycles are featured in museums and collections across the United States. For collectors, owning one of Steve McQueen’s vehicles isn’t about the car; it’s about the bragging rights. Letting your buddies know that the car was owned by Steve McQueen is the ultimate sign of cool. In honor of Steve McQueen, here are the three coolest cars associated with this unforgettable figure:
1956 Jaguar XKSS
McQueen’s XKSS was part of his personal garage and a one of only 16 models Jaguar produced in 1956. The actor originally purchased the vehicle in 1959 from television game show host Bill Leyden. Upon purchasing the car, McQueen quickly changed the paint color to his favorite shade of green and had the interior overhauled by famed upholsterer Tony Nancy.
Legend has it Steve McQueen received so many speeding tickets driving this vehicle he almost had his license suspended twice in his first year of ownership. Considering the car too valuable and rare to continue street racing, McQueen sold his beloved XKSS to collector Bill Harrah in the early 1970s. Apparently McQueen regretted this decision enough to buy back the Jaguar from Harrah in 1977, holding onto the vehicle until the actor’s untimely death in 1980.
1969 Porsche 917
In the 1971 film “Le Mans” Steve McQueen’s character, Michael Delaney, is involved in a spectacular car crash. The Porsche 917 is shown bouncing off a railing before being thrown across the track. Luckily, the car being destroyed was a radio controlled replica of this vehicle, because it would have been a shame to destroy this iconic piece of film memorabilia.
For the sake of authenticity, McQueen insisted on driving the Porsche 917 himself, at true racing speeds no less, during all the film’s racing scenes. During a Playboy interview, McQueen modestly told the interviewer “It’s capable of 240 – but I don’t take it up to full chat. Most times I’m hitting 225 or so.” The racing suit McQueen wore in Le Mans recently fetched $984,000 at auction. To give you some perspective on this exorbitant price, the auction house estimated the white suit featuring orange and blue stripes would fetch a more modest $200,000 to $300,000.
1968 Mustang Fastback GT
Otherwise known as the “Bullitt” car, the 1968 Mustang Fastback GT is the one vehicle most associated with the idyllic actor. Ford provided two, 390/4V big block engine-powered Mustang Fastback GT’s to the film featuring consecutive vehicle identification numbers and modifications. Little was done to the car aesthetically, except for painting the exterior McQueen’s favorite shade of green.
One of the Mustangs was destroyed beyond repair during the famous “Bullitt” car chase scene between the Mustang and the almost equally cool Dodge Charger 440 R/T. Another myth surrounding the “Bullitt” Mustang is the second car’s final owner. Reports of the second “Bullitt” Mustang being spotted in a Kentucky garage in 2010 are a matter of conjecture.
It’s also believed the final owner is extremely secretive, not even allowing fans or journalists to even photograph the iconic vehicle. For now, McQueen enthusiasts must settle for replicas, remakes and the film itself.
You may not have the bank account to purchase one of McQueen’s vehicles, but it doesn’t mean you can’t treat your car in the same manner as the actor. Steve McQueen drove hard, but he also cared for his cars like they were his own children. Here’s how you can do the same:
- Have the oil changed religiously. This could mean heading to the garage every 3,000, 5,000 or even 10,000 miles.
- Don’t let those strange little noises go. If your car is making a funny sound or emitting a strange odor, have it checked out immediately.
- Wash your car with care. Use a shampoo formulated for use on vehicles, not laundry or dish detergent. Take your time and don’t forget to rinse and dry thoroughly to prevent spots.
Steve McQueen’s legend lives on through his films, and the air of mystique surrounding his love of automobiles. The annual Steve McQueen Car Show is taking place in Chino Hills California on June 2, 2012. Head there to show off your own McQueen-inspired ride, or chat with fellow car enthusiasts and Steve McQueen fans.