Cool Millions

  • Scott Williamson/www.photodesignstudios.com
    Steve McQueen’s persona—actor, racecar driver, and rebel—drove the price of his 1963 Ferrari 250 GT Lusso to $2.3 million in 2007, a sum more than $1.8 million above the car’s estimated value at the time. Scott Williamson/www.photodesignstudios.com
  • Photo courtesy of Bonhams
    the Persol sunglasses Steve McQueen wore in 1968’s The Thomas Crown Affair. Photo courtesy of Bonhams
  • Photo courtesy of Bonhams
    The actor’s 1934 Indian Sport Scout. Photo courtesy of Bonhams
  • Photo courtesy of John Dominis/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images.
    McQueen’s “Problem kid becomes a star” cover for Life magazine. Photo courtesy of John Dominis/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images.
  • McQueen's International Driver's License.
  • Photo courtesy of Bonhams
    1923 Big Chief motorcycle with a Princess sidecar by Von Dutch. Photo courtesy of Bonhams
  • Photo courtesy of Bonhams
    The card lacquered onto the dashboard of the sidecar. Photo courtesy of Bonhams
  • A poster for his 1971 racing classic, Le Mans.
  • Photo courtesy of Pawel Litwinski/RM Auctions.
    This 1968 Ford GT40 Gulf Mirage lightweight racing car was the camera car used to film the race scenes in Le Mans. In 2012, it sold for $11 million by RM Auctions in Monterey, Calif. Photo courtesy of Pawel Litwinski/RM Auctions.
  • Photo courtesy of Bonhams
    The 1971 Husqvarna 400 Cross dirt bike. Photo courtesy of Bonhams
  • Photo courtesy of Christie’s Images Ltd
    The 1970 Porsche 911S. Photo courtesy of Christie’s Images Ltd
  • Photo courtesy of Darin Schnabel/RM Auctions
    The 1963 Ferrari 250 GT Lusso. Photo courtesy of Darin Schnabel/RM Auctions
  • Photo courtesy of Darin Schnabel/RM Auctions
    McQueen drove this 1970 Porsche 911S in France and in the film Le Mans— a pedigree that brought $1.375 million at auction in 2011. Photo courtesy of Darin Schnabel/RM Auctions
  • Photo courtesy of Darin Schnabel/RM Auctions
    Photo courtesy of Darin Schnabel/RM Auctions
  • Photo courtesy of Everett Collection.
    McQueen in The Thomas Crown Affair, wearing the Persol sunglasses that sold for $70,200 in Bonhams’ 2006 auction. Photo courtesy of Everett Collection.
  • Photo courtesy of Bonhams
    A pair of 1930s aviator goggles and helmet owned by the actor sold for $2,340. Photo courtesy of Bonhams
  • Photo courtesy of Bonhams
    The Belstaff jacket he often wore riding motorcycles drew $34,760. Photo courtesy of Bonhams
  • Courtesy of Bonhams.
    McQueen’s 1958 GMC pickup truck brought $128,000 at auction in 2006. Courtesy of Bonhams.
  • McQueen’s 1956 Jaguar XKSS on the roof of the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles, where it is part of the collection.
  • Photo courtesy of John Dominis/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images
    McQueen takes a spin in the XKSS in California, in June 1963. Photo courtesy of John Dominis/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images
  • Scott Williamson/www.photodesignstudios.com
  • Photo courtesy of Bonhams
  • Photo courtesy of Bonhams
  • Photo courtesy of John Dominis/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images.
  • Photo courtesy of Bonhams
  • Photo courtesy of Bonhams
  • Photo courtesy of Pawel Litwinski/RM Auctions.
  • Photo courtesy of Bonhams
  • Photo courtesy of Christie’s Images Ltd
  • Photo courtesy of Darin Schnabel/RM Auctions
  • Photo courtesy of Darin Schnabel/RM Auctions
  • Photo courtesy of Darin Schnabel/RM Auctions
  • Photo courtesy of Everett Collection.
  • Photo courtesy of Bonhams
  • Photo courtesy of Bonhams
  • Courtesy of Bonhams.
  • Photo courtesy of John Dominis/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images
<< Back to Collection, June 2014
  • Shaun Tolson

McQueen’s legacy seems impervious to the passage of time. Part of the reason, Squindo says, is the actor’s 1971 cinematic ode to the most famous of all motorsport events: Le Mans. It remains one of the two most revered movies about car racing, he says, along with the 1966 film Grand Prix. “Those movies are still the gold standard for car culture,” he explains, “and if McQueen is tied to one as intimately as he is, then darn it, he’s our hero.”

McQueen also remains a compelling figure because he died relatively young. “He died too soon,” Coker says. “That creates a mystique. . . . He got in cars and raced, and so did [Paul] Newman, but Newman lived to be 80-something. If Steve McQueen was still alive today he’d still have the cool factor, but I doubt that these cars would be bringing this amount of money.”

Morry Barmak, the owner of Collector Studio, a motorsports memorabilia gallery in Toronto, knows all too well (and with some regret) the value of McQueen-related artifacts. Barmak spent 10 years chasing down the racing suit McQueen wore in Le Mans. Not long after he acquired it in 2010, Barmak sold the suit to one of his clients for about $160,000—and then learned that the client intended to flip it. Barmak believed the suit would appeal only to car enthusiasts, but his client suspected there was a wider pool of potential buyers. The suit was consigned to a Profiles in History auction, where it commanded $984,000. “That showed me the power of McQueen,” says Barmak, who now gets requests for McQueen-related collectibles almost every week.

“He’s an American actor, but I get a lot of requests from European clients,” Barmak says. “Typically, Europeans stay within their own parameters. They have their own icons and actors and movie stars, but McQueen transcended cultural barriers.”

No one would know that better than Osborne, the Bonhams car specialist who spent a boyhood in Britain idolizing the star. “When important pieces of McQueen property come up for sale, the interest that we get is global—billionaire tech guys, Middle Eastern sheikhs, British aristocracy, and everybody in between,” he says. “People respond to him like they respond to no other. He’s a man for everybody.”

There may be just one person—one of the people who knew McQueen best—who remains mystified by his limitless star power. “I am amazed that his stuff still sells, because I knew the guy as a guy, not as a movie star,” Minty says. “He was just a normal guy to me, so this always amazes me.”

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