19-20 August 2011
1970 Porsche 911S Steve McQueen Le Mans Movie Car
To be auctioned on Friday, August 19, 2011
Sold for $1,375,000
- Chassis no. 91103 01502
- Engine no. 6302094
- Delivered new to Steve McQueen on the set of the iconic motorsport movie Le Mans
- Built to the highest available specification offered by Porsche for street models
- Invoiced and assigned by the Property Master for use during filming and for McQueen’s personal use
- Four owners from new, including McQueen’s personal collection in California
- Excellent in highly original preserved condition
- Well documented with invoices and correspondence corroborating absolute authenticity
For the first three minutes and 40 seconds, Steve McQueen isn’t the only star of the 1971 film Le Mans. The steely-eyed McQueen’s co-star for the film’s memorable opening scenes is a Slate Gray 1970 Porsche 911S. This magnetic pair opens the film in convincing fashion, and the tranquil images of McQueen driving the snarling 911 through the bucolic French countryside, contemplating the complex and shifting equations of life and death in competition, are in stark contrast to the racing action that would follow.
Indeed, this film, for all its production challenges and cutting edge, budget-busting production hurdles, is considered by most motoring enthusiasts as the best racing motion picture ever filmed, joined perhaps only by James Garner’s Grand Prix. It is a film that not only allowed Steve McQueen to exercise his creative potential on his life’s foremost passion but, from a cinematic standpoint, also accurately depicted the era, the dangers of endurance racing and the magic of Circuit de La Sarthe in the French countryside, to which the American moviegoer had heretofore never been exposed. McQueen’s expressive face and limited dialogue practically play a supporting role to the visceral, high-revving wails of Porsche 917s and Ferrari 512s as they speed through sun and rain, night and day, cheating death on the 240-mph Mulsanne Straight to claim victory in the historic “24 Heures du Mans.” Such was the importance of this film, with all its real-life footage, that in the car collecting hobby, virtually any item associated with Steve McQueen – and more specifically his major films, Le Mans included – attract tremendous attention, and rightfully so. Be it something as small as the attractive Heuer Monaco wrist watch his character wore or as significant as the 917 (chassis 022) he drove, liveried in iconic Gulf Oil colors, there are certain images of motoring that are at once uniquely “McQueen” and perpetually desirable. The 917, incidentally, was sold at RM’s Monterey auction in 2000 and is now presently owned by none other than Jerry Seinfeld.
In Hollywood, few celebrities have ever amassed a car, motorcycle and airplane collection as impressive as that of Steve McQueen. Be it a Porsche 356 Speedster, a Jaguar XK-SS, a Ferrari 250 GT Lusso Berlinetta or even a host of Von Dutch customized utility vehicles, his cars are not only legendary and highly valuable but have also been extensively written about.
Porsche’s Slate Gray was a particular favorite, as he owned several Porsches in this color. The car we have the pleasure of offering here, which figures so prominently in Le Mans, was similar to a 911S McQueen already had at home, which was the same model and color but just one year older. It was likely easier, however, to acquire another car in Europe than ship his own 1969 911S twice across the Atlantic. It is also quite plausible that Porsche, which was involved in the production of Le Mans, wanted him to showcase its latest model. The car seen in the memorable opening sequences, and in several other scenes, was invoiced to Solar Productions on June 1, 1970. It was a more heavily optioned car than McQueen’s own ’69 model, including rare factory-installed air-conditioning, muffler apron, tinted glass, a Blaupunkt Frankfurt radio, the Comfort Group (which includes leather upholstery and other interior upgrades) and front fog lamps with the then-required-in-France yellow lenses. The total cost of this machine, which was the top of the 911 street machine range in 1970 with a significant horsepower increase over the base model, cost just over 30,000 DM, or $8,338.61 to be exact, a princely sum at the time.
According to a letter from Porsche, “The car was driven as is directly to Le Mans by our people, for use by Steve and the Solar Productions crew. At a later date, the car was returned to our repair shop for modifications,” which included the installation of a limited-slip differential and revised gear ratios.
After its starring role in McQueen’s motorsport magnum opus, during which time it was extensively photographed on the movie set in France, with McQueen always near it or aboard, the car was shipped home to Los Angeles in January 1971. Sometime later, McQueen elected to sell this one instead of his ’69. There is no clear reason why he chose one over the other, but it is widely believed that he already had installed an upgraded and costly stereo system in his first car. The Le Mans car was advertised in the Los Angeles Times and was purchased by an L.A.-based attorney. He kept the car, largely in secret, for more than three decades, during which time he documented virtually everything about the car, as letters from Solar Productions and Porsche attest. Another Southern California resident, Judge Jesse Rodriquez, then purchased it in April 2005, who has since sold it on to its current owner, a noted Porsche collector in his own right.
Other than one repaint in the factory color, reupholstered front seats, new shock absorbers and a fresh windshield, it is completely original. The engine and transmission are original with all numbers matching, and the car has never suffered any rust or accident damage – a wonderful example of preservation versus restoration. It wears its original, and correctly sized, factory-installed Fuchs alloy wheels, and the odometer currently indicates less than 12,400 miles. (Total mileage is believed to be around 112,400 from new.) The car has been freshly serviced and detailed, drives on the button and has been the subject of many recent magazine stories.
The ’70 “S” was viewed as such an impressive performer in its time that it was routinely compared, by contemporary magazine road testers, with the Ferrari 246 Dino and other high-end exotics. The 911, itself a successor to the wildly popular 356, entered production for 1964 and took the racing world by storm. The “S” variant was the first high performance version for the street and engendered a long line of pavement-pounding Nürburgring weapons to come, including the road-going Carreras, RS and RSRs, as well as of course the iconic Turbo.
An Opportunity Not to be Missed
It is rare that we are able to offer a machine so impressive on at least three different levels. Early, chrome bumper 911Ss have become extremely valuable and are prized and much sought after by Porsche aficionados the world over. Second, this car comes with an impressive file of original documentation, including letters from the Porsche factory, plus the original invoice and numerous documents authored and signed by McQueen himself. Finally, this car’s incomparable Hollywood movie and ownership provenance make it that much more an historic proposition. Steve McQueen, who passed away in 1980, was not only Hollywood’s highest paid actor with such films as Papillon, The Great Escape, The Thomas Crown Affair, Bullitt and of course Le Mans to his credit, but he was also a truly talented and highly successful racing driver on sand, road, track and everything in between. Furthermore, his reputation as the “King of Cool” – the composed anti-hero who frequently performed his own stunts – has made him a pop culture icon of Elvis Presley proportions who not only inspires Hollywood actors to this day but everything from new production cars (consider the “Bullitt Edition” Ford Mustang) and movie remakes (The Thomas Crown Affair) to fashion magazines that use his likeness to tout a turtleneck, desert boots and Persol sunglasses as the quintessentially American “look.” It is this type of attraction that renders this car quite possibly the world’s best known, most significant non-racing Porsche 911.
Is it the most charismatic Porsche ever? Absolutely. It played a leading role among the to-die-for machinery in Le Mans, to many the ultimate motor racing film. Driven in the movie by its real life owner, the undisputed King of Cool Steve McQueen, it is hard to imagine another car with such glamorous, exceptional and meticulously documented provenance.
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