When it comes to pricing classic automobiles, celebrity ownership does not always translate to big money. Sometimes, though, it really, really does—like when it’s a car owned by Steve McQueen. After making headlines at auction nine years ago, the King of Cool’s 1967 Ferrari 275 GTB/4 will again cross the block at the RM Sotheby’s Monterey sale this August.
While there’s no actual science to it, celebrity premium does depend on things like how famous the owner was, their connection to the car in question, and how big of an enthusiast they were. Naturally, we track this sort of thing. The Hagerty Power List breaks down the most influential celebrities as they relate to the classic car market. As you might imagine, Steve McQueen is toward the top of the Power List’s movie star segment.
That makes sense—McQueen ticks all the celebrity car boxes. The lead in hit action films of the 1960s and 1970s, he was famous and classically cool in that “women want him, men want to be him” kind of way. He was also big into cars and motorcycles, plus he had good taste in both. Which is why, along with other car-crazy stars like Paul Newman or Paul Walker, McQueen-owned automobiles tend to be in a sort of market of their own, from his $1.95M Porsche 930 to the $3.74M Bullitt Mustang. More expensive than either, however, is this 275 GTB/4.
In the 1968 film The Thomas Crown Affair, McQueen’s character and an associate pass a 275 GTS/4 NART Spider, which they refer to as “one of those red Italian things.” Meanwhile, real-life McQueen was impressed enough to order his own red Italian thing. Unfortunately, his NART Spider got damaged in an accident on the Pacific Coast Highway and was laid up for repairs for several months. While waiting for it, he bought this 275 GTB/4, chassis number 10621.
The 275 GTB was an important car for a Ferrari, with the company’s first production transaxle and fully-independent suspension. McQueen’s car is a later GTB/4 that features upgrades like a four-cam, dry-sump version of the 3.3-liter Colombo V-12 engine and minor improvements to the suspension. Ferrari built 330 examples.
The actor’s Ferrari arrived painted in the factory shade of Nocciola (Hazelnut), but that just wouldn’t do, so McQueen had it painted in a specially-mixed color called Chianti Red. He also swapped in Borrani wire wheels and a bespoke wing mirror. He drove it around San Francisco while filming Bullitt and used it regularly until 1971, when he sold it to Zorro and Lost in Space star Guy Williams. It stayed with Williams until 1976, then got some rear end damage and sat in a body shop for several years.
A trucking magnate bought it in 1980 for $32,000 and commissioned Richard Straman to convert the closed GTB into an open NART Spider and had it painted yellow. While it would be blasphemous to cut up a 275 GTB today, it wasn’t unheard of back in the ’80s when these cars weren’t worth the seven-figure sums they are today.
The now-roofless Ferrari passed through several more owners before going to 1983 Le Mans winner Vern Schuppan in 2009, and then went back home to Ferrari Classiche in Maranello for a full restoration back to its original McQueen specs.
Which brings us to 2014. One of the headline cars at the Monterey auctions that year, McQueen’s GTB sold for $10.175M. It was the fifth-most expensive car of the week (behind four other Ferraris, including a $38M 250 GTO), but it made big news since no McQueen-owned car has ever sold for more at auction. And since the condition #1 (concours, or best-in-the-world) price for a GTB/4 in the Hagerty Price Guide was $3.3M at the time (it’s $3.4M today), the sale showed just how big the King of Cool premium could be. In the words of our colleague Rick Carey after the sale, “this is at best a $4 million 4-cam, but on this day, in this place, the bidders added more than $5 million, despite the off-again, on-again roof, for the long-reupholstered butt prints of Steve McQueen in the seat. Amazing.”
Monterey 2023 is months away, but it has already been announced that McQueen’s Ferrari will again be among the headliners at the world’s most high-profile auction event. That said, the movie star magic may have worn off a bit on this one. RM Sotheby’s estimate for it for this trip across the block is a more modest $5M-$7M.
Report by Andrew Newton
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