STEVE McQUEEN | LE MANS & BEYOND GRATUITOUS 1970s RACING GOODNESS

Steve McQueen at the legendary 1970 12 Hours of Sebring Race where McQueen (partnered with co-driver Peter Revson) raced with a broken left foot in a cast against racing great, Mario Andretti.  McQueen is sporting his iconic ’67 Rolex Submariner that went for $234,000 at auction in 2009.  BTW – Anyone else feeling the “Brian Johnson AC/DC ” vibe here with the black leather 8-panel cap?

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Steve McQueen’s 1971 epic, Le Mans, is the racecar film that is widely hailed as the gold standard for which all such films are measured– now, and certainly well into the future.  It was filmed largely live at the actual 1970 24 Hours of Le Mans, without the benefit of computer generated imagery and modern day trickery that we rely on today.  It feels raw because it is raw.  McQueen had originally planned to enter the #26 Porsche 917K with co-driver Jackie Stewart.  Fate had other ideas–  their entry car was rejected, and McQueen was unable to get insurance for the race.  As such, Jo Siffert and Brian Redman were now given driving duties.  While it was never a commercial success, it is long on guts, and is a sensory feast when it comes to the sounds and sights of what racing is all about.  Looking back at this incredible era, it’s hard not to be struck between the eyes by the strong graphic elements of the cars, logos, racing gear,  and attitude on display at every turn.

In preparation for the filming of the movie “Le Mans”, Steve McQueen went to the 1969 race to scout filming spots around the Le Mans course. When they returned in 1970 with all their camera equipment they knew all the best camera locations for the footage they would need for the movie “Le Mans.” I wonder who has all that film footage that they took in 1969? –Nigel Smuckatelli

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1970 — Steve McQueen at Sebring hanging out with Carroll Shelby.

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1970 — Steve McQueen at Sebring

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1959– A young & lean Steve McQueen ready to race at Santa Barbara. That is Al Long on the far left, Frank Monise in the middle. –photo by Hector Pimental

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The King of Cool, Steve McQueen

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Steve McQueen and the iconic Gulf Porsche 917K that was entered by McQeen’s Solar Productions at the actual 1970 24 Hours of Le Mans for the filming of 1971’s epic racing movie, “Le Mans.”  The racecar was driven by Jo Siffert and Brian Redman. Vic Elford, driver of the race-leader #25 Porsche 917K called it, “a monster… the long tail had to be driven like it was on rails.”

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May 1971, Belgium — Driver Jo Siffert races a JW/Gulf Porsche 917 supercar during the 1971 Spa-Francorchamps 1000km endurance race. — Image by © Schlegelmilch/Corbis

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Steve McQueen, Le Mans

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McQueen’s #29 Porsche 908/2 camera car used for filming at the 1970 24 Hours of Le Mans races for footage to make 1971’s “Le Mans.”  It’s the same car McQueen co-drove in the 1970 12 Hours of Sebring placing 2nd to Mario Andretti.

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Original Director John Sturges and Steve McQueen relax during the filming of the movie Le Mans. The cost of paying for this film almost bankrupted McQueen and eventually led to the break-up of his marriage. –Nigel Smuckatelli

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That’s a young Chad McQueen going for a ride with dad during the filming of the movie Le Mans in 1970. Chad even went for a ride with Steve in the #20 Porsche 917 that his dad drove in the film. Chad was even allowed to sit in Steve’s lap and hold onto the steering wheel for a short trip down the track. –Nigel Smuckatelli

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Steve McQueen in 1971’s epic “Le Mans” sporting the now legendary TAG Heuer Monaco chronograph.

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Steve McQueen in 1971’s “Le Mans”

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Steve McQueen, Le Mans

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Steve McQueen, Le Mans

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Letter written on Le Mans / Solar Productions letterhead, by Steve McQueen, documenting the concerns he had about Charles Manson and his murdering crew of misfits.

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Steve McQueen’s International driver’s license

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Steve McQueen had the idea to make a movie about Grand Prix racing and it was to be called “Day of the Champion” with MGM producing the movie. Steve even did some work using a Lotus camera car (see photo). That is actually Steve driving the car with some brave schmuck working the camera. Unfortunately for Steve John Frankenheimer started production on his movie called “Grand Prix” and they cast Steve’s good friend James Garner as the lead. As a result Day of the Champion was put on the shelf and Steve got so angry that he didn’t speak to James Garner for two years. –Nigel Smuckatelli

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1971, France — Steve McQueen on the set of Le Mans — Image by © Apis/Sygma/Corbis

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1970 — Steve McQueen “The King of Cool” on the set of Le Mans — Image by © Frederic Proust/Sygma/Corbis

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1971 — Steve McQueen on the set of Le Mans, directed by Lee H. Katzin. — Image by © Apis/Sygma/Corbis

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July 18th, 1970 — Steve McQueen at Le Mans in a Brabham F2, at Le Mans, listens to British Formula 1 race car driver Derek Bell. — Photo credit STAFF/AFP/Getty Images

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Steve McQueen, Le Mans

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Steve McQueen with wife Neile.

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Steve McQueen, Le Mans

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Steve McQueen, Le Mans

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© Copyright 2013 CorbisCorporation

1970, Le Mans, France — Chad McQueen drives a mini Ferrari during the shooting of the film Le Mans with father Steve McQueen. — Image by © Universal/TempSport/Corbis

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RELATED TSY POSTS:

1970 12 HOURS OF SEBRING RACE | STEVE McQUEEN’S BRUSH WITH VICTORY

STEVE McQUEEN | HOLLYWOOD’S ANTI-HERO & TRUE SON OF LIBERTY

REQUIRED VIEWING “BULLITT” | THE GRANDDADDY OF CAR CHASE SCENES

VINTAGE RACING STYLE | Legendary Drivers Crushing It On & Off The Track

27 thoughts on “STEVE McQUEEN | LE MANS & BEYOND GRATUITOUS 1970s RACING GOODNESS

    • The British racer Dave Bickers, who took part in that event, has some great stories to tell about McQueen – including helping Steve hack off the dangerously loose silencer on his bike as a tree/motorcycle interface had busted the mountings.

      Dave is now, or was until very recently, one of Britain’s best-known tv & movie stunt arrangers and can be easily contacted through Bickers Action at bickers.com.

  1. Pingback: 1970 12 HOURS OF SEBRING RACE | STEVE McQUEEN’S BRUSH WITH VICTORY « The Selvedge Yard

  2. Ali McGraw was a nice looking lady and all…. but jeez–Neile McQueen is a right looker —with curves even!!!!! Steve, you lived life on your terms (for sure) but I think you might have ‘dropped the ball’ here, my man. :)

  3. Hi, I found your blog through google images, and I just have to comment on how wonderful it is. I opened one tab to a post I saw, then another, then another, until I had about 13 or 14.
    Right now I’m wading through your archives and finding so many cool things, so thanks a lot!

  4. That’s a lot of auction money for a ’67 Rolex Submariner. My 2008 Timex didn’t fetch half that. And I am totally digging the black leather cap, but nobody can look cool in one of those. Except Steve McQueen. Another wonderful post, thank you.

  5. I recently discovered that the Heuer Monaco that I inherited from my father is the exact same model that Steve wears in this film and was forced to face the fact that my father may have been secretly hundreds of times cooler than everything I ever knew about him indicated. Now, whenever I see McQueen I have to contemplate whether my father actively made the decision to sport the world’s coolest watch or if it’s pure coincidence.

    • It’s no coincidence I’m sure. Ol Dad had to pony up some serious coin for that watch ; he was cool. Regrettably you’re just now figuring it out. Happens to a lot/most of us.

      Maybe this revelation will cast a little different light on Dad’s stuff, momentos and photos. Look at him thru slightly different eyes as it were. Enjoy Dad’s memory!

  6. Best set of photo’s I’ve seen put together about McQueen and LeMans. I loved the film and this era of racing which oozed style, grace and danger behind the wheel. I’ve meet some guys that raced during that era and loved hearing their stories.

  7. There’s much to love about Steve. And when I watch this iconic film I love him all the more for his foresight.

    I reckon he recognised he was living thru an extraordinary moment in motor racing – and thus made the decision to try and commit it to film.

    With hindsight, it’s obvious. But Steve clocked it then and there.

    ‘LeMans’ the film has its flaws, but imagine a world without it. Without its close-up witness of that amazing race.

    Thanks Stevo. You the man. Rickk

  8. Those cars are damn sexy. Great shots.

    Also, had the chance to see Neile speak in person at a McQueen film festival this year here in Seattle – what a classy, fun, and gracious woman. Had great stories about Steve and didn’t seem bitter or resentful at all about him.

  9. I just love the picture on McQueen’s international motorcycle license. That is the look I get when I ride.

  10. Another incredible post…thanks. Too bad the movie wasn’t appreciated at the time. But it is a great watch. No excess of dialogue, it sure ain’t Jane Austen! Its the perfect guy movie. Not just because its without CGI; its also without all the unnecessary BS that seems mandatory for any movie nowadays (did anyone suffer through “Pearl Harbor” and watch the whole thing?)

  11. Wonderful shots of the Man. He looked even better on a ISDE Triumph.
    If a guy needs advice on Sunglass,watches,cars,motos, khakis, hats buy a McQueen book.

  12. My dad took my brother & I to see ‘Le Mans’ at the Fox Theater in Atlanta when we were around 10 years old. That Movie had more of an impact on me that any movie I had seen prior to it or since. Thanks for the great collection of pictures and information about McQueen and the film.

  13. Another fantastic article, I cannot thank you enough for your tireless digging up of all things cool. You mention in your copy that Steve is sporting a TAG Heuer Monaco, but I believe at that time TAG wasn’t a part of the name yet.

  14. Hi,

    cheers for doing this blog – and especially many thanks for compiling and sharing all those pics.
    One question: as I’m desperately looking for a certain photo you have posted here (http://theselvedgeyard.files.wordpress.com/2010/07/steve-mcqueen-gulf-le-mans-21.jpg)
    to have it printed large scale – would you have that in even higher resolution as well?
    Any hints to other sources also gladly appreciated.

    Keep it up!

    Many thanks & kind regards
    Oliver

  15. Pingback: JAMES “HUNT THE SHUNT” | THE 1970′s HIGH-FLYIN’ LOTHARIO OF FORMULA 1 « The Selvedge Yard

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