Steve McQueen’s Cars & Motorcycles
words: Neil Siner
Whatever you think of the exploitation of his image and his myth, Steve McQueen had impeccable taste in cars and motorcycles. Here is a fistful of our favourite rides that will be forever branded McQueen.
The Bronze Ferrari 250 Lusso
The 250 Berlinetta Lusso was the final incarnation of Ferrari’s big 3 litre 250 Gts. Its V-12 engine produced around 250 BHP and with a man like McQueen on the pedal it would top out near 150 mph. Mrs McQueen paid $14,000 for it for her husband’s 34th birthday. The sensual, achingly beautiful Pininfarina design was delivered to the McQueen home in an unusual hue Ferrari called ‘Marrone’. Sounds better than ‘brown’. The slim roof pillars and mass of glass exposed an interior luxuriating in beige hide. Combined with the classic wire wheels, bumperettes and ‘eggcrate’ grill this machine is more plush than McQueen’s other vehicles of choice. One for and from the lady.
The Ford Mustang GT Fastback
It’s 1968 and Warner Bros execs are feeling pretty confident. They’ve got Steve McQueen for the lead, the streets of San Francisco as the set and Ford USA have just bunged them one of their latest GT Mustangs for a car chase that will accelerate them into movie legend. With only 16,000 of these examples of power and style made in 1967-68 they represent one of the final flexes of the American Muscle Car movement before 1970’s regulation calmed the streets. In ‘Bullitt’ McQueen fixes forever on celluloid the Fastback’s status as the definitive stallion for the urban cowboy.
The Honda CR250M Elsinore
When it launched in 1973 this powerful, super light single-cylinder two stroke from the East marked a sea change in Motocross, ending European domination and sparking the era of the Japanese manufacturers. Named after the famous off road race held at Lake Elsinore California, Honda aimed high with their new bike and hired National champ Gary Jones as their lead rider. McQueen owned a few Elsinores, and although he had actually ridden his Husqvarna at the eponymous race, Honda were quick to lever his status within the dirt bike world persuading him to star in a TV ad for the machine which has indelibly welded the two icons together. The million dollars they paid him to do so must have helped.
The Husqvarna 400
If you’re having a mid life crisis then do it properly and get hold of one these machines. In the days before the Land of the Rising Sun dominated the world of off-roading this big bored Swedish beast was roaring through the dirt, winning 14 Motocross and 24 Endurance championships. Being a tough bike to handle it suited the ultra competitive and aggressive McQueen, who entered races on his Husky under the pseudonym ‘Henry Mushman’ to try to preserve some anonymity in competition. With or without its legendary rider it remains a totemic piece of brawn anyone would love to own. The poetic ending sequence of On Any Sunday where McQueen rides the Husky is enough to make a grown biker weep.
The Jaguar XKSS
When McQueen saw something he wanted he got it. This was true of the XKSS he spotted parked in a studio lot on Sunset Boulevard in 1958. Based on the hugely successful D-Type racers this rare machine was one of only 16 to hit the streets before a fire at Jaguar finished the conversions. McQueen paid $5,000 for his off-white model, respraying it British Racing Green and having friend Tony Nancy re-craft the red interior in stitched black leather. Legend has it that the LAPD never caught up with ‘the cooler king’ on his midnight runs over Mulholland Drive in his beloved ‘Green Rat’.
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