You’ll be familiar with his films, but the “King of Cool” was also a discerning 911 owner. Written by Chris Randall. Photography courtesy Porsche Archive.
Steve McQueen is the perpetual ‘King of Cool’. Here’s how and why Porsche was close to his heart
World-famous film stars aren’t the usual preserve of these pages, but when they also happen to be enthusiastic owners of our favourite sports car they merit a closer look. When it comes to the Neunelfer, few are quite as famous as Steve McQueen, and naturally we need to start with that film. Using footage shot at the previous year’s race, Le Mans hit the big screen in 1971 and saw McQueen’s character, Michael Delaney, battle with Ferraris before taking the chequered flag in a Porsche. Needless to say, the film has gone down in Porsche folklore as one of the most captivating films you can hope to watch as a fanatic of Stuttgart’s prancing horse – even today it’s considered a right of passage for any aspiring Porsche owner or enthusiast to sit down and take in every frame.
But it’s the opening scene and the 1970 911S in Slate grey that will have resonated with many of us, a car that the actor took back to the US after filming had finished. He kept it for around 18 months before selling it and, having spent time with various owners over the years, it would be sold by RM Sothebys in 2011, where it fetched just shy of $1.4 million. A highly specced example that reportedly cost DM 30,000, we’ve previously been told by McQueen’s son, Chad, that it was Rico Steinemann who asked which car the actor would like to use during the making of the film.
Choosing the 2.2-litre S was probably an easy decision given the actor already owned a 1969 S, a car he’d taken delivery of in November 1968. Also finished in Slate grey, it remained a treasured part of his collection and one that saw plenty of action on the streets of LA. His taste for 911s extended further than the delicacy of the early models, his skill behind the wheel calling for something a little quicker. In fact, the 1970 Sebring 12 Hours saw him share a Porsche 908 with Peter Revson, and despite the actor having to drive with his left leg in plaster, the pair finished in 2nd behind the Ferrari of Mario Andretti. Returning to road cars, that faster model came in the form of a 1976 930 Turbo, once again painted in his preferred colour of – you guessed it – Slate grey.
McQueen’s love of cars and engineering is widely known. His personal collection contains some of the finest road cars ever made, but Porsche had always played their part, and it’s reported that the first car he bought new was a 1958 356 Speedster.
That he would go on to favour the 911 was always going to cement his relationship with the Porsche faithful, who celebrated not only his automotive taste, but also his fashion sense. The “King of Cool” didn’t just take the race track to the big screen, he also brought a little bit of Hollywood to automotive circles. Simply put, most of us wanted to be him. Cruelly robbed of a full life in 1980, his impression on Porsche fans will surely last forever.