First up is a 1970 Porsche 911S that was delivered to McQueen while he was on the set of the movie Le Mans. The car actually made an appearance in several of the movie's opening scenes and is in mostly original condition with just
Next up is a 1953 Siata 208/S Spider that was purchased by McQueen in 1956. Since then, the car has passed through several owners and has most recently taken to the show circuit with appearances at the Pebble Beach Concours, Quail Motorsports Gathering and Concorso Italiano. The Siata has recently been refurbished with period-correct components, including the 2.0-liter V8 producing 115 horsepower.
We'll have live photos of each of the cars come August, but until then, check out the pair of galleries below or read more about the cars after the jump.
*CORRECTION* - We initially misread the description for the Porsche 911S and stated that it was previously owned by Otis Chandler and Jerry Seinfeld. This is not the case. Rather, the Porsche 917 featured in the movie Le Mans was owned by both those noted collectors and not the 911S. RM has also informed us that the actual mileage of the car was incorrectly listed and is 112,400, not 12,400.
- Delivered new to Steve McQueen on the set of the iconic motorsport movie Le Mans
- 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 by Richard Attwood at RM's Monterey auction in 2000 to Los Angeles Times publisher Otis Chandler, a noted Porsche collector, before it passed through several distinguished owners 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. It is likely the amber fog lamp lenses were replaced with clear ones when the 911 was brought into the United States all those years ago. 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. 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.
1953 Siata 208/S Spider Description:
- Formerly owned by Steve McQueen
- Legendary "8V" power with rare, attractive and desirable spyder coachwork
- Multiple concours awards; shown at The Quail, twice at Pebble Beach and part of an extended exhibit at Petersen Museum
- In excellent condition, a superb event entry, eligible for the Mille Miglia
Societá Italiana Auto Trasformazioni Accessori (SIATA) created a marvelous assortment of machinery in its 45-year history under the guidance of the Ambrosini family. Founded by Giorgio Ambrosini in 1926, Siata specialized in performance modifications for Fiats, employing the intuitive skills of Ambrosini and his Turinese craftsman to create the overhead-valve conversions, multi-speed gearboxes, superchargers and multi-carb intakes that competitive Italians wanted for their diminutive Fiats. The Italian auto giant with few exceptions conspicuously ignored the high performance market as the Agnellis progressively concentrated their volume production empire around sensible and reliable small cars and left the specialized high performance projects to ingenious independents like the Ambrosinis.
The first actual Siata car, the Amica, was built in 1939. After WWII, Siata produced a very successful auxiliary bicycle motor and returned to producing performance accessories. In 1949, it released the new Amica, followed by the Diana and various competition cars.
THE ICONIC 'OTTO VU'
Firmly grafted to Fiat and its engineering, Siata took a giant leap forward with the arrival of Rudolf Hruska in 1950. Hruska had worked in the Porsche design office before the war and later collaborated with Carlo Abarth on Piero Dusio's Cisitalia Grand Prix project. Fiat itself plotted its re-entry to the top ranks of Italian performance automobiles in 1950 with the introduction of the two-liter V-8 (dubbed "Otto Vu"), whose development was entrusted to Siata. The oversquare, unusual 70-degree 8V engine featured an aluminum block and heads with wedge-shaped combustion chambers. Induction was through a pair of dual-throat, downdraft Weber carburetors. With its high-revving short-stroke design and 8.5:1 compression ratio, prodigious power was channeled through a four-speed manual gearbox.
Hruska put Fiat's '8V' engine in a chassis with fully independent suspension which Siata had originally designed for the Fiat 1900 four, and this became the basis of the Fiat Tipo 106 8V. Created and built in total secrecy, it was introduced at the Geneva Salon in 1952, where it caused a sensation. Ultimately fewer than 200 8V engines were made, powering 114 Fiat Otto Vu models in all, only 34 of which were bodied in-house by Fiat. The remainder carried some of the most influential designs of the era by carrozzeria such as Zagato, Vignale and Ghia with its landmark Supersonic. Zagato offered a particularly stylish variant, known as the 'Elaborata,' as well as a competition-oriented berlinetta similar in profile to the Maserati A6G2000 and Alfa Romeo 1900 Zagatos, and proved extraordinarily competitive road racers through nearly the end of the 1950s. An 8V Zagato berlinetta won its class in the final Mille Miglia (1957) for instance, with an average speed of 122.7 km/h.
Elio Zagato raced these cars himself, and this was purportedly his favorite of all Zagato designs. He won a number of races in lightweight 8V Zagato berlinettas, and he said in an interview that the 8V had never failed him.
The remaining 8V engines were given to Siata which seized the opportunity to put them in the very chassis from which the Otto Vu had been developed, calling their V8 sports car the 208S (2 liter, 8 cylinder, Sport). Benefiting from Siata-designed camshafts and better-breathing heads, the 105 hp Otto Vu was cranked up to a claimed 115 hp, resulting in a top speed of 110+ mph. The advanced Siata tubular frame chassis featured a fully independent suspension with coil springs and telescopic shock absorbers at all four corners and was a marvelously sophisticated platform for its time, with supple and predictable handling that amazed drivers accustomed to the rigidly-sprung, 'flex-framed,' live axle sports cars of the time.
Clothed in a variety of coachwork styles including coupes by Bertone, Vignale and Stabilimenti Farina, the all-alloy 208S Spyder penned by Michelotti for Stabilimenti Farina is regarded by many as the most elegant. A clean and refined design with extended rear fender peaks that brilliantly define the body line, its modern appearance complements its excellent chassis dynamics. Attractive from every angle, it is the very picture of a lithe yet purposeful open sports car. Indeed it is unquestionably a pioneering design with proportions adapted by automotive stylists through the present day. About 35 examples of the Spyder were produced.
Many, if not most, of the 208S Spyders were sold by Ernie McAfee, legendary SoCal hot-rodder turned distributor of Italian exotica, via his dealership on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles, where he also represented Ferrari, Alfa Romeo, Moretti and Osca, among others. McAfee himself raced a 208S in the 1953 La Carrera Panamericana (BS503).
Production of the 208S ended in 1954 when the supply of Otto Vu engines ran dry. At $5,350, it was half as pricey as a new Cadillac or Porsche and approaching the costly 12-cylinder Ferrari. Expensive and glamorous, with fabulous press reviews, interest was high but sales were slow; McAfee was reportedly still selling new 208Ss through 1957.
In recent years the many charms and exclusivity of the Siata 208S have received substantial recognition, still rarely seen but always pleasing crowds and winning awards at major concours and touring events alike. An attractive 'show/driver' condition 208S was just honored at the 2011 Villa d'Este Concorso d'Eleganza in the 'New Dawn – Small Car, Big Performance' category.
Steve McQueen's 209S – chassis BS523
This particular example of the Siata 208S Spyder, BS523, was sold new in Los Angeles by Ernie McAfee. Circa 1956 it was acquired from McAfee by the young acting sensation Steve McQueen who attached Ferrari badges and referred to it as his 'little Ferrari.' By 1958 he sold the car via McAfee Engineering to Bruce Sand, then a graduate student at UCLA Medical School. At that time, the car was liveried in its original gunmetal grey (with yellow California plates, registered MTY 906). Soon after his purchase, Bruce realized the car was missing its side curtains and dropped by McAfee's shop to inquire as to their whereabouts. Informed that Steve had them, he was sent to McQueen's house to retrieve them. This was not to be their last meeting involving the Siata.
Dr. Sand recounts an unforgettable encounter with McQueen in the May 2009 issue of Octane Magazine, where he reports that McQueen once commandeered the car and took him for "the ride of his life."
Driving down Sunset Strip after midnight, Dr. Sand recalled, "A Ford convertible came roaring up and forced [the Siata] to the curb. Out popped McQueen. There was no 'Hello!' or 'May I?...' He just walked up and said he wanted to drive the Siata."
Sand moved to the passenger seat, and McQueen got in and went tearing off, heading up Coldwater Canyon and Mulholland Drive. "Steve drove the Siata flat-out," Sand continued. "I was glued to the seat and didn't even have the time to be frightened." At the end of the enigmatic adventure, "Steve pulled in behind his Ford. He hadn't uttered a word and just got out of the Siata and returned to his own vehicle."
The Siata subsequently went through the hands of a number of owners, eventually finding its way back East. Larry Frye found the car in North Carolina around 1983 and finally succeeded in buying it from a Lee Dart in 1991. Frye then began an extensive restoration (over $175,000 in receipts) by the estimable Knute Kollman, finished with body and paint by Brian Hoyt of Perfect Reflections. When Kollman built the engine, he performed his useful and desirable internal lubrication modifications to the block, installed 2.3-liter pistons and cylinder liners, along with other upgrades which yielded an impressive 137 hp on the dyno.
Upon completion, Frye was invited to exhibit the Siata at the 1994 Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance in the Custom Italian Coachwork class where it placed Third. It was shown at various other California Concours events, usually earning a First in Class (Hillsborough, Lafayette, San Jose and others). In 1999, he also secured FIA official authentication papers in preparation for an intended Mille Miglia entry.
The car's current owner purchased the car directly from Mr. Frye in October, 2000. It was promptly entered in the inaugural Mille Autunno Rallye, ran in the California Classic Rallye the following June, and was awarded 'Best Italian Car' at the 2001 Concours on Rodeo [Drive]. Later, the Siata was comprehensively refreshed under the expert guidance of Ivan Zaremba at specialist shop Phil Reilly & Co. in Corte Madera, California, who sorted the car to ensure that it performed as well as it looked.
Upon completion, it was entered in the 2005 Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance, after which it was displayed at the Quail Motorsports Gathering in 2006. From there it was part of the 'Cars of Steve McQueen' exhibition at The Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles. It was also shown at Concorso Italiano in 2007 and was accepted to run the Colorado Grand in September of 2007. A trip to Epifani Restoration for event preparation revealed that the engine required attention. The owner took the opportunity to commission a full rebuild at Epifani, including new pistons, rods, valves, tappets and bearings. The camshaft was hard faced and the lifters hard chromed. The water pump was modified, and new, state-of-the-art head gaskets were fitted. The original distributor and generator were replaced with more modern, reliable components. (All the original items are offered with the car.) The carburetors were rebuilt and the heads "flowed." The engine was completed in the Fall of 2008 and since then has logged fewer than 400 miles.
Further references on chassis BS523 are to be found on pages 1,152 and 1,153 of the exhaustive monograph on all the 8V-powered cars, Otto Vu by Tony Andriaensens, and other tomes, including the recently compiled McQueen's Machines by Matt Stone.
Today, the car is presented in outstanding condition both cosmetically and mechanically. The custom deep Ruby Red paintwork by Brian Hoyt was completed to the highest standards and has been carefully preserved so that it remains exceptional. Close scrutiny reveals a few small chips on the front of the car from road use, but the car is otherwise free of significant blemishes. The polished aluminum trim and Boranni wheels are excellent and are shod with the period-correct Michelin X tires. The glass and lamps are also excellent, and a pair of auxiliary driving lamps has been fitted behind the grille.
The interior is both functional, elegant and most might say even beautiful. The attractive Oyster-toned leather upholstery (tastefully piped in red) is mellowing nicely, and the floors have the correct black diamond rubber matting. The painted dashboard featuring jewel-like Jaeger instruments are excellent, and the wood steering wheel professionally restored. The contrasting oatmeal carpets are in excellent shape as well, as is the black soft top. A set of modern safety harnesses complete the inside picture.
The engine compartment can only be described as stunning, having been fully detailed when the engine was rebuilt in 2008. Extremely correct in appearance and finishes, the 8V engine is itself a work of art with its shapely exhaust manifolds and unusual airbox. The underside is equally nice, very well detailed and exceptionally dry. The sophistication of the chassis design is evident and, once again, truly remarkable for its time.
Included with the car are four impossible-to-find original manuals: the McAfee original operating instructions, an 8V engine manual (original and, uniquely, with Ferrari stampings from their archives), an 8V engine parts book (original), and an 8V specification list. Other documents include a notarized letter from Dr. Bruce Sand attesting to the Steve McQueen history, five period photographs from Dr. Sand circa 1958 and the FIA paperwork. (FIVA certification has been applied for at the time of this writing.) There is a limited collection of spares as well as all the original items that were substituted with more modern, reliable components to ensure dependability on the road. It is complete with its top and side curtains, as well as a custom-designed tonneau cover. An impressive reproduction tool kit is also supplied (replicated from that of BS529), and a very rare set of period-correct Heuer rally instruments (watch and stop-watch) are affixed to the dashboard.
Among the few surviving examples of the Siata 208S, BS523 must be considered among the finest examples of this unusual yet desirable breed. The car's provenance is impeccable and its condition exceptional, always treated to the best care by the most experienced professionals with exotic Italian automobiles, without regard to cost. Its fascinating history and superb presentation make this Siata an appealing contender for any serious collection of pedigreed sports machinery and thus represents an outstanding opportunity for the enthusiast who appreciates its historical importance, rarity, high performance, sophisticated road manners and stunning good looks – among the most beautiful to ever clothe the exotic, iconic 8V engine.
And finally the Siata is a highly eligible entry into any world-class driving event from the Mille Miglia to the Colorado Grand to California Mille and remains cosmetically strong enough to compete successfully at any number of show events. If there was ever a car that 'ticks all the boxes,' this has to be it.