Steve McQueen, "The King of Cool" (1930-1980)

  • Steve McQueen in his Jaguar XKSS
  • At the set of "Le Mans" 1971

Terrence Steve McQueen (born on March 24, 1930) was an American actor and race car driver, mostly famous for his performance in 28 movies, but also for his racing efforts in various classes in motorcycle, sport cars and off road races.

His interesting persona, roles of lovable, anti hero characters and racing background, earned him a nick name the “The King of Cool“, which stands even today. He was one of the first popular actors to turn to racing and his track career started in 1958 with amateur events in lower ranks.

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Early racing career

In 1959 McQueen purchased his first proper race car – Lotus 11, which he raced extensively and achieve podium finishes in SCCA championship. During the sixties, he participated in lot of races with different cars such as Austin Healey Sebring Sprite or Porsche 356 Carrera. At the same time, he entered some motorcycle events with his Triumph bike.

Steve McQueen in his Lotus 11

Steve McQueen in his Lotus 11

Success on screen was bigger than on the race track

As one of Hollywood’s top paid actors, McQueen did not had time to fully concentrate on racing but at the end of the sixties, he become attracted to endurance racing and trough his production company bought a Porsche 908 racing car.

In 1970, he participated in several races, winning smaller SCCA National Holtville event and achieving second place at 12 Hours of Sebring in the #48 Porsche 908 which he was sharing with Peter Revson. That year, McQueen was at the 24 Hours of LeMans but his Porsche 917 was not accepted to race and he was faced with demands from his producers not to enter.

McQueen in Porsche 908 at 12 Hours of Sebring race

McQueen finished second at 1970 Sebring 12 Hours in the #48 Porsche 908

“Le Mans” movie and the end of his racing career

During the 1970 Le Mans 24 Hours event, McQueen’s 908 was used to act as a camera car for his upcoming racing movie “Le Mans” which is a definitive racing flick. After the interesting 1970 season and 1971 premiere of “Le Mans”, McQueen was faced with money problems since the movie was not as profitable as expected and his racing activities were very expensive.

Trailer for Steve McQueen movie, Le Mans

So after the 1970 he turned back to acting to improve his finances. Towards the end of his life, McQueen never raced again and on that level but remained a active cars and motorcycle collector and enthusiast. At the moment of his passing he had 221 motorcycle, 55 cars and 5 airplanes.

At the set of "Le Mans" 1971

At the set of “Le Mans” 1971

McQueen was a very talented driver with enormous passion and energy. During his racing career he proved that he is very fast without much training or experience. Some critics said that McQueen did not had a level of concentration needed to achieve first place finishes and he often pushed too hard resulting a mechanical failure.

But nobody can deny that Steve McQueen was a good driver with courage and talent who understand races, and in a short period of time, lived for it. His passion almost took him to the verge of bankruptcy but that gamble produced a greatest racing movies of all times by one the greatest actors of all times and established a legend of Steve McQueen.


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