Photographer: Theo Cohen/Courtesy of FilmRise
Photographer: Theo Cohen/Courtesy of FilmRise

Steve McQueen and the Sexiest Cars and Motorcycles on Film

In 1970, Steve McQueen, Hollywood’s King of Cool and outspoken gearhead, had it all—until he began making Le Mans, his movie about the famous 24-hour French race. Production was plagued by money problems, on-set rivalries, and his own torrid love life, chronicled in the new documentary Steve McQueen: The Man & Le Mans. Before the film’s Nov. 13 premiere, we look back at the actor’s most famous roles, in which the vehicles are as memorable as he is.
The Man, the Myth
The Man, the Myth

McQueen stands outside a Ferrari race car at the Le Mans track in France, in 1971. The race was set as a major rivalry between Porsche and Ferrari racing teams. “I don’t think there is any racing driver who could tell you why he races, but he could show you,” McQueen said in the coming documentary about the film, which was meant to be a love letter to the sport.

Source: Courtesy of Everett Collection

 

Speed Racer
Speed Racer

Several Porsche 917s were included in Le Mans. Seen here, No. 21 was driven by McQueen’s character, Michael Delaney. The race-leading white No. 25 Porsche 917 “long tail” (not pictured) was piloted by Vic Elford and Kurt Ahrens Jr.

Photographer: Nigel Snowdon/Courtesy of FilmRise

Killer Cool
Killer Cool

Steve McQueen on his 1960s-era Triumph motorcycle on the set of Le Mans. The film was plagued by delays and stalls, since filming began before a script had even been written.

Photographer: Nigel Snowdon/Courtesy of FilmRise

Arriving on Set
Arriving on Set

The actor arrives in style on an unmarked motorcycle on the set of Le Mans. The movie was shot on location during the 24 Hours of Le Mans race in mid-June 1970 in rural France. Steve McQueen: The Man & Le Mans (Nov. 13) chronicles the making of that movie with unseen footage and McQueen’s own private recordings.

Photographer: Nigel Snowdon/Courtesy of FilmRise

So Many Cars, So Little Time
So Many Cars, So Little Time

In the 1968 thriller Bullitt, co-staring Jacqueline Bisset, McQueen’s character (Frank Bullitt) drives a 1968 Ford Mustang 390 GT 2+2 Fastback. The movie’s screenplay was written by Alan Trustman, who was also the writer McQueen initially hired to write dialogue for Le Mans. Trustman’s script did not make it to final film production.

Source: Courtesy of Everett Collection

 

Catch Air
Catch Air

McQueen’s Frank Bullitt is a well-liked lieutenant on the San Francisco police force. His car chase scene is considered among the most iconic, most authentic car chases in film history. Bullitt drove a 1968 Ford Mustang 390 GT 2+2 Fastback, while the other main car, shown here, was a 1968 Dodge Charger 440 Magnum.

Photographer: Mary Evans/Warner Bros/Seven Arts/Ronald Grant/Courtesy of Everett Collection

Let the Lady Drive
Let the Lady Drive

McQueen and Bisset drive together in Bullitt. In the film, Bisset played Cathy, McQueen’s girlfriend. The car she drives (shown here) is a 1964 Porsche 356 Cabriolet.

Source: Courtesy of Everett Collection

 

Destination Unknown
Destination Unknown

Steve McQueen and Faye Dunaway co-starred in 1968’s The Thomas Crown Affair. The movie is about a millionaire businessman who pulls off the perfect high-class robbery. (Pierce Brosnan reprised the role in 1999.) McQueen did his own stunts in the film, including playing polo and driving this Meyers Manx dune buggy across the Massachusetts coastline.

Source: Courtesy of Everett Collection

 

Gentleman Pursuer
Gentleman Pursuer

At the end of The Thomas Crown Affair, McQueen’s Crown sends this 1967 Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow to Dunaway’s Vicki Anderson with a telegram asking her to bring the money from the robbery and join him—or keep the Rolls.

Source: Courtesy of Everett Collection

Free and Easy
Free and Easy

The Great Escape is a 1963 American World War II epic shot at the Bavaria Film Studio near Munich. The motorcycle chase scenes were shot on meadows outside Füssen, Germany, on a 650cc Triumph TR6 Trophy. The famous jump scene was performed by stuntman Bud Ekins in place of McQueen, but the actor rode the bike himself in other shots.

Source: Courtesy of Everett Collection

 

No Back-Seat Drivers
No Back-Seat Drivers

The Getaway (1972) was a box-office hit, earning more than $36 million in the U.S., and one of the most financially successful productions of McQueen’s career. In the film he plays a prisoner in Texas denied parole. The film shows McQueen’s character and his wife, played by Ali MacGraw, as they break him out of prison and head for Mexico. His character drives a blue 1963 4-door Ford Galaxie 500 in the scene after he robs a bank, and a 1969 Chevy Impala 4-door as he races down the highway after the shotgun scene.

Photographer: Mary Evans/David Foster Productions/Ronald Grant/Courtesy of Everett Collection

True Heart
True Heart

“The racing world is no less creative an expression than film itself. It’s only an oddity because it’s a blood sport.” —Steve McQueen on the set of Le Mans, 1971.

Photographer: Nigel Snowdon/Courtesy of FilmRise