Fans of Hollywood history know Steve McQueen as the "King of Cool" and one of the film industry's most iconic stars. His fame grew throughout his career, which included smash hits and enduring portrayals of both leading men and supporting characters. A Steve McQueen highlight reel wouldn't be complete without scenes from The Towering Inferno, The Blob, and the classic Western The Magnificent Seven.
But alongside those hits, another trend develops while studing McQueen's repertoire: many of his most famous roles involved stunts that he performed himself, from the car chase in the noir detective film Bullitt, to the sandy beach blast at the helm of a Meyers Manx in the heist thriller The Thomas Crown Affair, and the barbed wire motorcycle jump in The Great Escape.
But many film aficionados may not realize that alongside his on-screen escapades, McQueen's passion for motoring led to a successful career as a race car driver, including competing in the 12 Hours of Sebring, where he finished second behind the legendary Mario Andretti. In automotive circles, McQueen is often quoted saying "Racing is life, everything else is just waiting." Whether that statement extends to filming major motion pictures, as well - or at least racing in major motion pictures like he did in his 1971 passion project, Le Mans - is a mystery that only adds to the Steve McQueen aura.
His success on camera and as a driver allowed McQueen to amass one of Hollywood's great car collections, and fans of great cars will appreciate knowing that he definitely took them all out and pushed them to their limits. Keep scrolling for 18 of the best cars Steve McQueen owned throughout his life.
18 Ferrari 275 GTB/4
McQueen's Jaguar XKSS will likely never be sold, as it resides in the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles, but he also owned a former world-record holding Ferrari, a model that reigned as the most valuable car ever auctioned until just this past July. He picked up his 275 GTB/4 after costar Faye Dunaway drove one on the set of The Thomas Crown Affair, and owned it for years despite being unable to decide whether he loved the car more as a coupe or a convertible. In both forms, the 275 GTB/4, with its quad-cam V12 and sleek, quintessentially Italian styling, is one of the most awesome vehicles ever to take the road.
17 Ford Mustang GT 390
Perhaps the most identifiable car that Steve McQueen ever drove in a movie was the Ford Mustang GT 390 that featured heavily in the San Francisco detective film Bullitt.
In what was at the time undeniably the best car chase scene ever caught on film, McQueen himself piloted the dark green Mustang up and down the steep hills of the Bay Area, being chased by and then chasing a black Dodge Charger.
In the years that followed the film's 1968 release, McQueen tried to purchase the exact car that he drove for the chase, but the owner refused to sell, so McQueen was forced to get ahold of a lookalike for his own collection.
16 1958 Porsche 1600 Super Speedster
The Porsche brand has been cranking out some of the world's most uniquely styled cars, and in the early years of Steve McQueen's stardom, not many models could match the combination of lightweight and powerful, rear-mounted engine that Porsche sold. McQueen himself owned a 1958 Porsche 1600 Super Speedster, which was his first sports car and arguably set him down the path towards becoming a full-blown racing addict, both on the street and on the track. As valuable as his car may be today, in those days a Porsche didn't command the respect of most drivers, though stars like McQueen helped to establish the German manufacturer as one of the premier brands for true motoring enthusiasts.
15 1969 Porsche 911S
Early Porsches utilized small-displacement engines shared in large part with their Volkswagen cousins, but their handling and light weight allowed the four-cylinder engines to keep up with much larger offerings from their competition. By the 1969 Porsche 911S, though, the German manufacturer had upped the game with the use of powerful flat-six engines, and though the rest of the industry had largely turned to water cooling, Porsche helped keep their cars simple to work on by sticking with air cooling. McQueen drove a 1970 911S in the film Le Mans and had to get himself a similar model, albeit one that was built one year earlier.
14 Ferrari 250 GT Berlinetta Lusso
The Ferrari 250 GT Berlinetta Lusso that Steve McQueen owned may have been brown, rather than the red that most drivers associate with the iconic Italian manufacturer's beautiful products, but its sleek design still shines through as one of the most stunning cars ever built.
Unlike many of McQueen's highest-end cars, this model was designed as a luxurious grand tourer, though it shared its Colombo V12 engine with plenty of racing cars and was the fastest road-going production car in the world at the time of its release.
But the V12-powered car had design flaws as well, including excessive vibration, smoking under acceleration, and a difficult four-speed transmission - all factors that led McQueen to sell his in 1967.
13 1967 Mini Cooper S 1275
The Mini Cooper is one of the smallest and cutest cars ever made, but most drivers may not realize they also were successful racing cars, as well, thanks to their lightweight, tossable body. Steve McQueen's 1967 Mini featured a 1275cc engine, making it one of the quickest of its time, and he customized it with a sunroof, chromed wheels, and a new paint job. McQueen reportedly fell in love with the Mini while hanging out with racing legend John Cooper on the set of The War Lover, a 1967 film set in England, which makes it all the more surprising that McQueen had his Mini repainted from British Racing Green to two-tone brown and tan.
12 1961 Cooper T-56 Mark II
At the height of McQueen's track-racing days, he wound up racing this 1961 Cooper T-56 Mark II car during the 1962 season. The car had raced successfully in 1961, tying for the Junior European Championship, and was powered by a 105-horsepower four-cylinder engine, and with a wheelbase of only 89 inches, that power hits the ground with enough grunt to make the car a serious contender. McQueen competed in it on the West Coast successfully, including winning the Santa Barbara street races, after which Cooper himself invited the actor back to England to continue racing, but in the end, his schedule was too booked and he sold the car to Buster Brizzard, who went on to win multiple championships with it.
11 Von Dutch 1904 Winton Flyer Replica
In the period piece The Reivers, based on the novel by William Faulkner, Steve McQueen's character drove a replica of a 1904 Winton Flyer that legendary automotive figure Von Dutch had built meticulously to look, as well as drive, exactly like the 18-horsepower, original model upon which it was based.
McQueen ended up keeping the car after filming wrapped, adding it to his collection where it remained until hitting auction in 1984.
The Winton Flyer featured so prominently in the movie - even though his role earned McQueen a Golden Globe nomination - that McQueen himself referred to it as "the real star of the picture."
10 Special Order 1976 Porsche 930 Turbo Carrera
Steve McQueen clearly loved Porsches throughout his civilian and race-car driving life, getting his start in an early Porsche Speedster. But the Speedster would have nothing on the final Porsche he would own, a custom-ordered 1976 (930 generation) Turbo Carrera.
Equipped with fuel injection, a non-intercooled turbocharger, and larger wheels, McQueen knew the car was potent he even installed a special switch to turn off the rear lights in case he was being chased.
On top of the car's inherent appeal thanks to its engine cranking every ounce of power to the rear wheels, the McQueen aura helped it sell for $1.95 million at auction in 2015.
9 1959 Lotus Eleven
After Steve McQueen got accustomed to racing on both the road and the track in his 1958 Porsche Speedster, he traded it for one of the ultimate track cars of all time, a Lotus Eleven. The tiny, lightweight car courtesy of English genius Colin Chapman had better balance than the Porsche's pendulous rear end, and its track-specific design led McQueen to later say, "In that Lotus I really started to become competitive. I was smoother, more relaxed; the rough edges had been knocked off my driving. I was beginning to find out what real sports car racing was all about.”
8 1951 Hudson Hornet
When RM Auctions had the good fortune to list a Steve McQueen-owned Hudson Hornet in 2012, the automotive world held their breath as prices quickly approached ridiculous levels. Part of the final gavel price, which was estimated at three times the cost of a normal Hudson, was due to the McQueen cool factor, but the relatively bland car's value can also be attributed to the role that a Hudson played in the Disney film Cars (a movie with a protagonist named Lightning McQueen). The staid sedan may seem out of place amidst the radical sportsters that make up the rest of Steve McQueen's cars, but he actually tended towards more classic cars after the production of Le Mans in 1971.
7 1969 Porsche 908/2 Flunder Spyder
Steve McQueen's Porsche 908/2 Flunder Spyder found roles both on the race track and as part of the film crew on the set of Le Mans.
Originally, McQueen raced the 908 in the 12 Hours of Sebring race in 1970, finishing second overall after Mario Andretti.
Later, the car was used as a camera car to capture the high pace of action in Le Mans, a film in which McQueen had plans to race a Porsche 917 during the actual 24 Hours of Le Mans race in the same year. Powered by a 3-liter, air-cooled, flat-eight engine, the 908 brought Porsche's commitment to lightweight, small cars to the track with great success.
6 Shelby Cobra 289
When Carroll Shelby teamed up with Ford and English manufacturer AC Cars to build a lightweight race car, the resulting Shelby Cobra immediately became one of the fastest cars in the world - both on the race track and on city streets. Seen above with Shelby himself, McQueen drove a Cobra 289, a car that - if someone could actually locate it and verify McQueen's ownership - would be worth many millions of dollars. Less than 1,000 original Cobras are believed to still be in existence, and even barely-maintained examples without celebrity provenance like McQueen ownership easily fetch sums north of six figures.
5 1972 Mercedes-Benz 300SEL 6.3
A big Mercedes-Benz sedan may seem incongruous for a racing aficionado like Steve McQueen, but in reality the 300SEL 6.3 represented the pinnacle of performance and luxury when it hit the market in 1972.
With a Euro-spec V8 engine under the hood, it was the fastest sedan in the world, and could sprint to 60 miles per hour in 6.5 seconds.
McQueen's 300SEL 6.3 is also a great example of the escalating prices that McQueen provenance can bring, as his car sold at auction in 2007 for just over $45,000 and is listed currently on Hemmings by San Francisco Sports Cars for $369,995.
4 Baja Boot
While Steve McQueen was an accomplished road and track race car driver, his interests also extended to piloting off-road vehicles at and beyond the limits of human and mechanical endurance. In homage to the famous Baja off-road races, McQueen entered a special vehicle in the 1968 Stardust 7-11 race and later the Baja 1000. He said about the car: "I've lined me up a sweet machine for this one. Called the 'Baja Boot.' Chevy powered. Four hundred and fifty horses under the bonnet. Space frame construction. Four-wheel drive. Independent suspension. And 'smooth'! I can notch close to a hundred over a sand wash and you better believe that's moving."
3 Austin Healey "Sebring Sprite"
McQueen's love of tiny sports cars extended to one of the manufacturers who consistently created some of the world's smallest road- and track-going cars, Austin Healey.
His Austin Healey can only be described as a "Sebring Sprite" because it combined so many different details of the first and second-generation (MkI and MkII) Sprites in race-prepped form.
McQueen had help getting the car ready for racing from Donald Healey, himself, entering it in the 3-hour event. After being bought, raced, and sold by multiple owners, the unique 'Sebring Sprite' was destroyed when it was hit by an out-of-control car while parked next to a race track.
2 1952 Chevy 3800 Pickup with Camper
Not every vehicle that Steve McQueen owned was a race car, sports car, or high-end luxury product; he also owned a funky 1952 Chevy 3800-Series Pickup complete with a camper shell. His wife, Barbara Minty McQueen, described how it came to be in the collection, saying "Steve’s collection of cars and motorcycles cluttered the private driveway that serviced a row of homes near the beach, but that didn’t stop him from buying whatever he wanted. I remember one time we drove past a migrant farm worker who had this b*****in’ old truck and Steve turned the car around and wrote him a check on the spot," adding, "He bought a plane or two that way, too.”
1 Jaguar XKSS
Amongst all the incredible cars that Steve McQueen owned, the ultimate and most iconic was his custom Jaguar XKSS. He was notorious for blasting around the Hollywood Hills in it, burning rubber with four-wheel drifts around the tightest corners.
The car itself is one of only 16 original examples that survived after a factory fire destroyed most of the road-going versions of Jaguar's highly successful D-Type race car.
McQueen had his repainted in British Racing Green and called it 'The Green Rat' - but despite the dismissive moniker, it remains one of the most desirable cars in the world with an estimated value around $30 million thanks to both the model's scarcity and the Steve McQueen coolness factor.