Beyond Bullitt: The Untold Story Of McQueen And Porsche - story Go to full screen story Fullscreen

Beyond Bullitt: The Untold Story Of McQueen And Porsche

The McQueens reveal how the "King of Cool" fell in Love with Porsche

by Amrit Balraj on June 30, 2024, 06:00

Steve McQueen became the embodiment of cool in his lifetime with cult classics like Bullitt, The Great Escape, and Le Mans. Despite a rough upbringing, he defied the odds to become a Hollywood superstar known for his effortless charisma, dedication to his craft, and a rebellious streak that perfectly complemented his lifestyle. This same rebellious spirit and love for adrenaline translated into a lifelong passion for motorsports.

He spent his life making movies so he could spend the rest of his free time and money racing. He loved going fast and machines that were engineered to go fast. Due to this appreciation, he had a particular fondness for the Porsche brand and its high-performance models. His first car which he bought new was a Porsche 356a Speedster in 1958, which is still owned and maintained by his family today.

  • Steve McQueen’s first new car was a Porsche 356a Speedster
  • Steve’s best racing result came at the 1970 12 Hours Of Sebring, where he and his co-driver finished second
  • Steve McQueen’s son Chad McQueen is the founder of McQueen Racing, est 2010
  • Steve did most of the driving stunts from his movies himself.

Steve McQueen and Porsche: A Partnership Fuelled by Passion

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Even before Steve McQueen found success on the silver screen, racing was always a part of his life. He started his racing career in his younger days entering motorcycle races on the weekend while working full-time and somehow still finding time to attend acting classes. Even after he started getting roles and fame, he always found time for getting behind the wheel. and insisted on writing high-octane driving scenes into most of his movies. Along with road racing, he was also an accomplished off-road racer.

He purchased a Triumph Bonneville sometime in the early 1960s, which he used to compete in the Baja 1000, Mint 400, and the Elsinore Grand Prix. His greatest moment of road racing came at the 1970 12 Hours Of Sebring which he entered as a private team in a Porsche 908/02 Spyder racecar. Steve showed remarkable composure racing with a broken leg and managing a second-place overall finish, against more experienced teams in higher-capacity cars. This allowed Porsche to stay in the Manufacturer’s World Cup, which was appreciated by none other than Dr. Ferry Porsche himself in a letter to Steve.

Today Steve’s legacy is being kept alive thanks to his son Chad McQueen and grandson Chase McQueen, The duo revealed some interesting anecdotes about Steve, in a Petersen Automotive Museum Exclusive. Chad started McQueen Racing in 2010 and the company is into racing, custom cars, bikes, racing films, and McQueen branded merchandise.

Chase and his sister Madison understand the importance of their legacy and want to make their collection of rare cars more accessible to everyone. This means that they take every opportunity to turn up at car shows like Rennsport Reunion, and the Friends of Steve McQueen car shows to display their exotic collection, which does come with some very rare Porsches. They have no plans to sell any of their cars or bikes.

"Racing is life. Anything that happens before or after is just waiting" - Steve McQueen

There Have Been Some Spectacular Cars In Steve’s Collection Over The Years

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A bonafide gearhead, Steve McQueen’s collection boasted 210 motorcycles, 55 cars, and a fleet of five airplanes by the time of his death. Steve McQueen was the coolest man in Hollywood, the realest of the real. He believed in pushing himself to the limit, which was reflected in the roles that he undertook and his racing career.

Some Noteworthy Cars In Steve McQueen’s Collection Include:

  • One of his favorite cars was his green 1956 Jaguar XKSS (seen above), a car which he affectionately referred to as "The Green Rat".

  • The 1970 Porsche 911s featured in the opening scenes of his classic film Le Mans, which Steve chose to keep even after shooting of the film was wrapped up.

  • The 1959 Lotus Eleven Racecar was the first true blue race car which helped him understand what racing was all about and made him more competitive.

  • The 1963 Ferrari 250GT Lusso which was a gift from his wife on his 34th birthday. The car which was finished in deep metallic brown was imported to the United States through Luigi Chinetti, who was the exclusive American importer of Ferraris at the time.

His classic film ’Le Mans’ came about from his desire to make the most realistic racing movie ever, even though the audiences did not realize it at the time. Now, 40 years later it remains one of the most iconic films about racing ever made. McQUeen’s legacy is being proudly carried forward by his family, who are working hard to ensure that the next generation is inspired by his life story.

Amrit Balraj

Amrit Balraj

Features Writer Read full bio