Known for his exquisite acting roles during the 1960s and 1970s, Steve McQueen built his empire of fame through unforgettable movies The Great Escape, Love with the Proper Stranger and one of his best known movies, Bullitt. McQueen then became the world’s highest paid actor after starring in The Getaway in 1972. After 1974, the king of cool decided to move away from the cameras and do what he always loved: motorcycle and car racing.
McQueen fell in love with wheels after his uncle Claude gave him a red tricycle on his fourth birthday. He started developing his skills until he started street racing on a motorcycle, earning around $100 a week out of winning races in the early 1950s.
McQueen once thought of changing his career to a professional race car driver after he already had several successful racing experiences, finishing third on his BMC Mini Cooper in the British Touring Car Championship at Brands Hatch in 1961. Also in 1970, McQueen teamed up with Peter Revson to race the 12 hours of Sebring and win the three litre category with a Porsche 908/2. They were close to winning the overall as well but Mario Andretti, Ignazio Giunti and Nino Vaccarella were 23 seconds faster in their five litre Ferrari 512s. McQueen also raced in several off-road championships with cars and motorcycles like the Baja 1000, the Mint 400 and the Elsinore Grand Prix.
McQueen wanted to go further in racing as his talent was obvious but that was not possible because of his acting career which he chose not to risk. However, this didn’t kill the passion for cars and motorcycles in McQueen’s soul. His love of fast cars and driving was reflected in his movies, as he loved to personally perform his motorcycle and car stunts most of the time.
The American actor was also keen to keep his garage filled with cars which fulfilled his desires.
McQueen ordered the Ferrari 275GTB/4 from Hollywood Sports Cars in 1967. The original colour was metallic gold but he ordered the dealer to repaint the car red before taking it home. The 275-GTB also had some customisation like the wire wheels, custom rear view mirror, retractable radio antenna and bespoke seats. McQueen kept the car for five years before selling it to the star of the classic Zoro Guy Williams. The car was on display in 2010 in the Ferrari Museum in Maranello, Italy, before it was auctioned in 2014 in Pebble Beach and sold for $10 million. He then got another Ferrari, the 1963 250-GT Lusso.
One of McQueen’s famous cars is the 1956 Jaguar XKSS. It was special for many reasons: it was a limited edition of 16 cars when the British manufacturer had to suspend the production line after a massive fire in the factory.
It was also the street’s legal version of the D-Type race car. This car was fast at the time, and McQueen loved to drive it to the limit, which cost him some traffic tickets in return. One time, when McQueen was driving the XKSS with his six-month pregnant wife Neil in the passenger seat, he was driving fast as usual. He was pulled over and told the officer that he was rushing to the hospital because of his pregnant wife. The officer believed him and went with him to the hospital. McQueen didn’t get a ticket but his wife didn’t talk to him for one day.
McQueen owned so many cars that they can’t all fit in one article. He owned a 1960 Austin JCW Mini with a sunroof and once was lent a Cobra for a few months, reportedly the fastest production vehicle in 1963. The vintage BMW motorbike, the 1969 911S and many other rides, all were the delight of the king, which certainly made him cool.