The King of Cool's Vincent Comet


1953 Vincent Series C Comet

Briefly owned by legendary film star and motorcycle enthusiast Steve McQueen, this 1953 Vincent Series C Comet will be offered at Bonhams’ Oct. 6, 2018, auction at the Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum. All photos by Somer Hooker.

One day back in the 1970s, I was talking with the late Gene Aucott, who was the first Vincent dealer in the U.S. Gene allowed that he had been contacted by Steve McQueen in regards to a Vincent he had purchased. Gene encouraged him to attend a rally and get more involved. Sadly, soon thereafter, McQueen developed cancer and passed away in 1980. When his estate sale was held, there was no Comet there.

The Comet

In 1987, I was at the Antique Motorcycle Club of America’s big meet in Davenport, Iowa, where I came upon Indian four expert and aficionado Earl Chalfant’s table. I happened to notice a picture of a Vincent Comet there. Of course, I inquired, and Earl told me he had traded Steve McQueen for it in the 1970s! It was then that he told me “the rest of the story.”

McQueen had gone into a vintage bike dealer in the U.K., where he spotted an early Brough Superior SS-80 and the Vincent Comet, with a sidecar on it. He bought both bikes, and with no interest in the sidecar he asked them to remove it.

There were two things about the Vincent that McQueen did not realize: First, the forks were in the wrong position; and two, one of the frame numbers was wrong for a Comet. When it arrived in California, McQueen took it for a ride and found the handling to be atrocious, so he took it to Bob Stark’s Indian shop in California and asked him to sell it. Chalfant saw the Comet at Stark’s and offered a 1939 Indian Chief in trade (later sold at McQueen’s estate sale, Lot No. 648); McQueen accepted and they traded bikes.

9/13/2018 8:12:51 AM

McQueen worked in a motorcycle shop in NY while he was another wannabe actor. Funny that he didn't figure out the fork issue, especially since he knew the history of the bike.

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