Here’s something unusual: A Porsche 911T that Steve McQueen used in his 1971 film Le Mans failed to sell at a Christie’s auction on Wednesday night in Paris.
“This car is very special,” Dirk Boll, Christie’s managing director for Europe, said during an interview prior to the sale. “It was well-kept in a garage and driven—but not too much, about 46,000 kilometers [29,000 miles]. Ninety percent of offers like this are restored or totally restored, and this one is not. So it’s really fantastic, museum-quality.”
He did not respond to a request for comment following the sale.
The car apparently didn’t attract any buyers interested in bidding on its $275,375–$385,525 estimated price. During the presale phone call, however, Boll said the estimate was modest and that it could have broader effects on the vintage 911 market at large. RM Sotheby’s sold a similar 1971 Porsche 911T for considerably less ($159,500) in March.
Porsches have indeed become more popular in recent years at auction, and McQueen’s star power associated with this one had seemed promising. The timing was also right—McQueen is the subject of a new biopic opening in theaters on Nov. 13 that recounts his behind-the-scenes intrigue during production of Le Mans.
McQueen shot the film on-site in France. It’s one of the most important racing movies in history because of its revolutionary filming, some of which was shot at speeds approaching 200 miles per hour, and its use of real driving professionals and champions such as Derek Bell.
After shooting ended, McQueen’s production company promised the 1971 Porsche 911 to actress Elga Andersen, who played McQueen’s love interest in the film, as part of her compensation for working. After Andersen’s death, her best friend took ownership, then sold it to a Swiss garage. The car came to Christie’s from racing star Jo Siffert’s estate in Switzerland.
Rather than rarity, it was the car’s superior provenance and condition that spurred initial interest, Boll said: “Unlike other cars of this kind it has not been stripped, but is completely authentic down to the Porsche badge on the front hood. You have the body paint that is original, with slight retouches on the front for gravel marks from the street, as you might expect. It still has the cream-color leather, which was a super luxury extra in the 1970s, and the original cassette radio with electronic antenna as well.”
The car was part of Christie’s Exceptional Sale, which focused on ultra-rare objects such as an early Louis XV bureau (hammer price $199,922) and a Sèvres porcelain sugar bowl ($503,937) ordered by Empress Catherine the Great of Russia. The first edition of this auction took place in London in 2008 and culled more than $154 million. This was the inaugural Paris sale.