Steve McQueen: Motorcycle Enthusiast

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“McQueens Machines” features the cars, motorcycles and even airplanes that Steve McQueen owned over the years. Read details about the star’s amateur racing career, movie stunt work and his passion for collecting.
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Sean Kelly found the actual Triumph TR6 ridden by McQueen in the ISDT races. His race number was 278.
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Steve McQueen had over 200 motorcycles in his collection.
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McQueen astride a Norton on set during the filming of Le Mans. He also had a Triumph and a Husqvarna with him while in France, both for pleasure riding and to get around the massive Le Mans course and countryside. Messenger cap and iconic Heuer Monaco watch add to that 1970s look.
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Riding the river trail on his then-new Honda CR250 Elsinore, McQueen showed his willingness to adapt to new dirt bike technology, even if longtime friend and mentor Bud Ekins disregarded the Japanese brands. The Honda was named for the wild off-road spectacle—500 riders contested a 10-mile-long course that was a little bit of everything that was the Elsinore Grand Prix.

McQueen’s Machines(Motorbooks, 2007) by Matt Stone celebrates major motorhead and famous actor Steve McQueen and his passion as a car enthusiast, racer, and motorcyclist. Get a close-up look at the automobiles and motorcycles in McQueen’s garage, those he drove in movies and others he raced. The following excerpt is from Chapter 2, “McQueen on Screen.”

McQueen on Two Wheels

“A Husqvarna 405 at about 12,000 rpm–that’s music. In bike racing, I specialize; I do rough-country riding, the long-distance kind of thing. With a cycle, you’re dealing with natural terrain, you learn to read the earth. . . I like being out there in the desert on a set of wheels. You’re really alive out there.”

–Steve McQueen, from Star on Wheels, 1972 

It was inevitable that Steve McQueen and motorcycles would form a lifelong link. His childhood and rough early years–scrabbling for work, living in near poverty–forced the issue on two fronts. One, bikes were cheaper than cars. Two, he was of the ideal temperament for motorcycling in the late 1940s, when the activity was far from genteel. Indeed, the personality of the rough-and-tumble biker stereotype had long been formed by then, supported by daredevil racers of the 1910s and 1920s and only given a unified visual identity we recognize today by so-called outlaws of the 1960s. In between, we had Brando and Elvis and James Dean–misunderstood, troubled, in trouble, and, for that matter, out for trouble. It would be no surprise to find a rudderless youth, enticed by the image, stick to it as a way of submerging his troubles.

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Motorcycle Classics Magazine
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