Steve McQueen and his Speedster

 
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Steve McQueen and his Speedster

Steve McQueen was not just a film star who loved cars and motorbikes. He was a life-long petrolhead who was a talented and succesful racer on two wheels and on four.

In the 1950s, while struggling as an actor, he earned money by competing in weekend mortorbike races at Long Island City raceway and purchased the first of many motorcycles. He also took part in a number of car races. He once famously said, "I'm not sure whether I'm an actor who races or a racer who acts".

Increasing success in plays, TV and films meant that he could afford to buy his first new car - a Porsche 356 Speedster Super. His aim was to achieve the same sort of success in cars that he had already achieved on bikes.

His first formal race entry was at Santa Barbara in 1959 where he won his class, and that was followed by other races in 1959 at Del Mar, Willow Springs, and Laguna Seca.

Steve entered the Speedster in an SCCA race at Hourglass Field near San Diego in June 1959 and came third in the production class.

It is not so widely known that he also competed in the British Touring Car Championship in 1961 in Sir John Whitmore's 850 Mini. The fact that he came third at his first visit to Brands Hatch so impressed Sir John that he gave Steve his winner's cup.

In the 1970 12 Hours of Sebring race, Peter Revson and McQueen (driving with a cast on his left foot from a motorcycle accident two weeks earlier) won with a Porsche 908/02 in the 3 litre class.

 

click on any image to enlarge

McQueen competed in many other car races, and also continued his motorbike racing career taking part in several major off-road races and being part of the US team in the International Six Days Trial in 1964.

As his acting commitments increased in the late '60s there was less time for racing and he sold the car to Bruce Meyer. But Steve persuaded Bruce to sell it back to him after about 7 years.

Bruce Meyer delivering the 1958 Porsche 356 Speedster Super back to Steve McQueen

Steve MacQueen owned many wonderful cars including the Porsche 917, Porsche 908 and Ferrari 512 race cars from the Le Mans film, a 1963 Ferrari 250 GT Lusso Berlinetta, the 1970 Porsche 911S from the Le Mans film, a Jaguar D-Type XKSS (Right-Hand Drive), a 1962 Cobra and a Ford GT40. In spite of multiple attempts, McQueen was never able to purchase the Ford Mustang GT 390 he drove in Bullitt. The only car that he kept and that remains in the family is the black 1958 Porsche 356 Speedster 1600 Super which is still owned by his son, Chad.

Steve McQueen's Speedster today
This car is significant because was the first car he purchased new and it was the first car he raced in organized motorsports. His son Chad has had it restored to its original specification.

McQueen chose a black exterior, black folding top, and a mostly black interior. There wasn't anything on McQueen's Speedster that didn't need to be there, apart from a small accessory cigarette lighter clamped to the steering column.

 

Steve McQueen's Speedster today ...

Much of the Speedster's interior and instrument panel is factory original. Note old-style competition seatbelts.

The engine bay is neat and tidy without being over-restored.

At a rated 75 horsepower, the 1600 Super packed 15 more ponies than the standard 1600 model. McQueen installed an even larger engine after he repurchased the car in 1974.

One feature that set McQueen's car apart from most others was the optional Rudge alloy knock-off wheels. These were a popular competition accessory, slightly wider than the Speedster's stock steel wheels.

Rudge knock-off wheels were a rare and expensive option, popular for racing


A Tribute to McQueen's favourite cars
The Friends of McQueen group organised a car show featuring many of the famous cars owned or raced by Steve McQueen during his life.

The 58 Speedster was, of course, the star of the show.

 

Terence Steven "Steve" McQueen
(March 24, 1930 – November 7, 1980)

     
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