It’s that time of year again when the automotive world gears up for the mother of all U.S. motoring events: the Monterey Peninsula Car Week held each August. One of the foremost celebrations of automotive design and performance that week is the Quail Motorsports Gathering, and with that, the seminal Bonhams & Butterfields auction of important collectors’ cars.
This year, Bonhams will attempt to make history once again by offering what is perhaps one of the most important cars to ever straddle both the competitive and popular culture worlds – Steve McQueen’s 1969 Porsche raced at Sebring and used in the movie Le Mans. It is expected to fetch $1,500,000-2,000,000.
The ex-Solar Productions Steve McQueen/Peter Revson race car is a 1969-70 Porsche 908/2 Pflunder, 3-litre air-cooled flat-8 Spyder, in which McQueen and Revson finished second overall in the 1970 Sebring 12-Hours just behind Mario Andretti. It was raced later that same year at Le Mans mounted with two cameras to produce footage for McQueen’s classic film Le Mans, released in 1971. The car went on to become a five-time competitor in the Le Mans 24-Hour Grand Prix d’ Endurance, the world’s most charismatic sports car race.
As the story goes, McQueen purchased the Porsche specifically to compete at Sebring and teamed up with Formula One driver Peter Revson. The Sebring 12-Hours was a full factory contended points-earning race and the amateur McQueen/Revson team and their private car seemingly had no chance against the factory giants Ferrari, Ford and Porsche. Yet with only 25 laps remaining they were in the lead. This was an incredible upset for the big professional teams so Ferrari ordered Andretti to “win the race at all costs.” Although the 5-litre Ferrari 512S was far more powerful than the 3-litre Porsche 508, Andretti couldn’t pass until the second to last lap, winning by only 23 seconds! More amazingly, Steve had raced with a broken foot still in a cast, duct taped to keep it from coming apart.