From Iconic film star to avid racer, Steve McQueen was definitely the King of Cool. But who was the man behind the myth?
Who is Steve McQueen?
Steve McQueen was an American actor and motoring enthusiast that reached the height of popularity in the 1960s and 70s. Appearing in a number of Hollywood classics including The Great Escape, The Blob, Papillion and The Thomas Crown Affair, Steve McQueen quickly became the street tough, Hollywood heartthrob of his era.
Movies and Motors
McQueen always had a love for cars, highlighted in the 1968 film Bullitt. Playing a San-Francisco cop, McQueen featured in one of the best car chases in Hollywood history, making the Highland Green Ford Mustang Fastback 390 GT the iconic “Bullitt Car”. Conducting all his own car stunts, McQueen demonstrated his impressive driving skills while chasing a Dodge Charger through the hilly San Francisco streets. After realising he could combine his two passions, racing and acting, McQueen starred in Le Mans, a movie about the 24-hour endurance race, hosted in France. Playing Porsche race driver Michael Delaney, the film sees McQueen and his teammate battle the Ferrari team in a nail biting race for the win. In the film, Steve conducted many of the car stunts himself, insisting that he drove the Porsche 917K at it’s true speed – a mere 225mph! Unfortunately, the film didn’t experience instant Hollywood success but motoring fans where particularly impressed with the films authentic production.
In the late 1970s, McQueen became ill and after a short battle with cancer, he passed away on November 7 1980 in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.
The Cars of Steve McQueen
Throughout his glorious career, Steve McQueen made several vehicles iconic. But how did the famous petrolhead’s garage weigh up?
1968 Ford Mustang GT Fastback
Ok, so Steve didn’t strictly possess this motor but he certainly made the car iconic. Featured in one of the most high-octane car chases in Hollywood history, the Highland Green Mustang became a cult classic. The car used was sold to a private buyer after filming, however McQueen did approach the owner to purchase the vehicle in 1974, but they refused to sell.
1956 Jaguar XKSS
One from the man’s personal collection, it is believed that McQueen loved to drive this car at high speeds (as you would). While he owned this car, Steve McQueen picked up a multitude of speeding tickets, causing him to have his driver’s licence suspended… twice! Steve sold the Jag in 1969, but ultimately regretted his decision and decided to buy it back in 1977 owning it until his untimely death.
Shelby Cobra 289 Roadster
One of the most sought after cars in the 21st century, the Shelby Cobra 289 Roadster is the epitome of motoring excellence in the 1960s. From its lightweight sports car frame to the power packed Ford V8 engine graciously lying beneath the bonnet, the car is both iconic and beautiful. Being an advocate of speed and style, Steve was pictured driving this car many times. But it turns out McQueen never actually owned the car, with car designer Carroll Shelby only lending him the vehicle for a period of time. Regardless, this car was a perfect fit for the King of Cool.
Ferrari 275 GTB/4
An example of sublime Italian mechanics, it is believed that the Ferrari 275 GTB/4 occupied a space in Steve’s garage during his career. It is said the actor bought the car while filming Bullitt, but later sold it to a fellow actor. Sold for a whopping £6 million, the 1967 V12 supercar was very desirable at auction – fetching a price around 4-times its value. This was later accredited to McQueen with RM auctions managing director, Max Girardo stating “The Steve McQueen factor is simply immeasurable. There is nothing better to spend your money on than a Steve McQueen Ferrari.”
1972 Mercedes-Benz 300SEL 6.3
At one point, the Mercedes-Benz 300SEL 6.3 was the fastest saloon in the world, hitting zero to 60mph in 6.5 seconds. Fitted with a V8 engine, the vehicle had both speed and style – much like the actor himself. McQueen owned the European specification 6.3 between 1972 and 1980, the car was sold at the Keno Brothers Auction, New York for $375,000 in 2015.
1961 Austin Mini Cooper S
Before hitting the heights of fame, Steve McQueen drove a brown Mini Cooper S around town. Being the petrolhead he was, Steve repainted the car as well as making other notable modifications including a larger sunroof, a mounted foglight on the front bumper and a sunken radio antenna. Work conducted on the car was courtesy of friend Lee Brown, who, in present day, is believed to own the car.