- Written by webmin
One thing we can attribute to the classic-car auction scene of recent years is its ability to turn the selling of significant cars into events, as iconic and influential bits of motoring history are made available to whoever can produce the highest bid. The excitement that results can be attributed, at least in part, to the rush that dedicated car enthusiasts experience when realizing that a seemingly unobtainable treasure could actually become their own.
The buzz is all the more intense when the car offered is one that is familiar not simply for its pedigree, but also for having been “lost” to time, sparking speculation over its whereabouts that can churn for decades. Such was the case with this 1970 Porsche 911S, which countless enthusiasts have witnessed rolling across the silver screen in the opening scenes of Steve McQueen’s cult classic, Le Mans. The impression this car made on audiences has endured, but for most of the time since the film’s release, the Porsche has been M.I.A. Now, after resurfacing in recent years, the 911 that McQueen drove as fictional racing driver Michael Delaney will cross the block at RM’s sale in Monterey this summer (August 18-20).
So where’s it been all this time? It seems the Porsche was intended for the movie from the very beginning, having been ordered by McQueen to use while residing in France during production of Le Mans; he already owned a ’69 911S that he kept at his home in Los Angeles. As McQueen’s character for the movie was a Porsche factory race driver, it would only make sense for him to drive one of the company’s finest road cars, and so the film opens with the hero traversing the twisting roads of the French countryside.
Most accounts seem to portray the ’70 911S as having been acquired solely for use during production (it is said to have been originally titled to Solar Productions, McQueen’s film company), but it was reportedly ordered with a U.S.-spec Blaupunkt AM/FM stereo, along with air conditioning, hinting that the intent might have been to bring the car back to the States all along.
Which is exactly what happened after shooting wrapped, though unfortunately, Solar Productions went into bankruptcy soon after, and evidently, McQueen realized that a second 911 was somewhat superfluous. Since the ’69 had been custom-fitted with a then state-of-the-art sound system, the ’70 would go. According to accounts, the second owner simply answered a classified ad in the Los Angeles Times for the 911S; when he went to the seller’s home for a look, Steve McQueen opened the door.
That owner kept the Porsche for 34 years, using it frequently but appreciating it, until finally opting to let it go. It was never publicly offered then, as a chance word-of-mouth exchange between the seller’s wife and a colleague resulted in a sale. Owner number two knew what he had, and had preserved the car well, though it had been painted once and the original windshield – the one bearing the parking permits from the race track during filming – had also been replaced. Still, reportedly, that owner kept every bit of documentation, and apparently there had been a lot of it when McQueen passed him the car. In similar fashion, owner number three was well aware of the 911′s significance, and continued to preserve the car accordingly.
And now, after many years, a car that probably inspired countless 911 sales and spawned who knows how many more Porsche enthusiasts, will finally emerge from the shadows and to be offered to whomever produces the highest bid. In the meantime, it has been displayed at the Amelia Island Concours, just to tickle enthusiasts a bit, letting them know of the pending opportunity. We’ll be watching this one, but while we wait, you can find more information on RM’s upcoming sales at www.rmauctions.com.