Steve McQueen’s Ferrari is up for auction (again)

Tim Scott/RM Sotheby’s

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.

1967-Ferrari-275-GTB side profile
Tim Scott/RM Sotheby’s

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 the vehicles of 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 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 four-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.

1967-Ferrari-275-GTB rear three quarter
Tim Scott/RM Sotheby’s


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    Well, I think that even if I took in all my recyclable cans and bottles PLUS dug in all my couch cushions, I’d come up a bit short, so I think I’ll just yawn and say, “So what if someone wants to spend stupid amounts of money to own something that some actor once owned and won’t ever be driven again?” Neat car, but honestly, this celebrity worship stuff is ridiculous, IMO – did that car make McQueen a better actor? Nope. And that’s what he was famous for (in addition to some driving/riding accolades plus maybe some domestic issues), so how does a vehicle have any connection to his fame?
    People with too much money: I guess it’s your business how you want to spend it, but seriously, aren’t there a few more productive ways to utilize $5+ million?

    The cache of this vehicle is, as noted in the article, “women wanted him, men wanted to be him”. Thus the premium is paid by someone with very deep pockets who “want to [try to] be him”. An expensive, and impossible, attempt to satiate a man-crush. If the auction estimate holds, then this cost the current owner AT LEAST $300k-$500k per year of ownership. I only wish I could find that kind of loose change in my couch cushions.

    There are actually people among us who have so much money they don’t bother to think about whether 5 or 10 million needs to be spent productively.

    So after a repaint, collision bodywork, having the top cut off, then put back on, I’ll guess there isn’t anything McQueen would have actually touched left in it.

    If it were any other car, that kind of history would have made it far less collectable.
    Good luck trying to sell a 911 or even a Corvette with a backstory like that.

    Ouch! It hurts to think that the current owner of this car may have paid between $1,000 and $1,750 *PER DAY* for the privilege of looking at this car in person. Let’s hope RM’s estimate is unusually low.

    Just goes to show that the serious money spenders don’t put 911’s and Corvettes in the same league as a Ferrari previously owned by a much loved and admired film star. Maybe if the 911/Corvette had been owned by McQueen then maybe it would fetch much higher price than any other 911/Corvette.

    I’m sure another “Car Guy” will buy it to stash away and flip it in another few years for millions more. Yawn.

    The comment on the value rings true, I have a photo (somewhere here) of an almost identical car (minus the McQueen ownership) sitting outside at a Connecticut used car dealership in 1973 or ‘74.

    There is a chance that car you observed was at Hyatt Motors in Westport. Although there was and still is a dealership in Greenwich. I was buying parts for an MG TD at about the same time. They had a red 275GTB4 and a yellow one, priced at $14,000 and $20,000 ( don’t remember which was which ). At the time a new Rolls was around the same price. Seems inflation has raised the prices a tad.

    The car was at a dealership in Litchfield CT, wasn’t an exotic car place, but even then, Litchfield wasn’t a “poor man’s” town. I do recall Hyatt in Westport (I had an MG as well). Chinetti was the Ferrari dealer in Greenwich, always worth a visit.

    Modena the Shop that took over Chinetti’s place in NYC had 2 short nose GTBs in 1974…they were 9 years old and in the middle of a recession were selling for $ 6K to 7.5 K so $ 12 to 20 K in CT seems EXTREME for a 6 year old car. 2 cam or 4 cam was not a big deal then…

    I used to see McQueen driving this in its original color, and later, with Guy Williams. I had no idea that this was the same car as the one McQueen had. $5~7M seems to be a bit low for a perfect 100 pt 275 GTB4 with a McQueen history. Also a big loss for the seller… I am pretty sure that it will go for more, and the seller will make a few points on his investment.

    So the current owner stands to lose every cent of the $6 million celebrity premium he paid for the car in 2014. I’m actually glad to see this happen…..partly due to jealousy, and partly as a lesson to those whose foolish spending negates any possibility that they actually worked and earned the money.

    At this level of expenditure it helps to be a speculator who reasonably expects a return on resale that covers most if not all the cost of ownership. That way you get all the benefits of ownership for a period of time at little or no cost to you. Of course, as with any speculative investment, there is risk.

    All you guys want to talk about is the money! What about the car? It is beautiful! Completely restored by Ferrari!

    Five million smackeroos beautiful? I think not. Yes, it is beautiful and yes, it is a fairly rare Ferrari. But it’s not all original, despite the factory rebuild. And it’s not one-of-a-kind…there are others out there. If you had that much into it, would you drive it? Doubt it. So, if it’s just “beautiful-but-undrivable”, it’s not really a car – it’s only a piece of art. And unless a piece of art is by one of the true Masters, and it’s the only one that exists, I can’t justify the cost. And I only “talk about the money” because this auctioning of celebrity cars crap gets my blood up a bit – sorry if that makes you think I don’t appreciate the thing for its beauty, David. I do. 😊

    Pablo Picasso’s “Women of Algiers” sold for $179,365,000… and she’s not all that bewitching. Personally I’d say that this 275 GTB/4 is a WAY more attractive piece of “art” than the Picasso and it could be admired in the garage every day as art then used on the weekend in a far more amusing way than something that just hangs on a wall. And it can be had at a savings of about $172,365,000. Seems like a bargain to me. If I had Picasso coin this 275 would be in my garage and out on the twisties on a regular basis. And I’d take a hard pass on the Algerian lady.

    Agreed, Terry, that is the analysis; but barring a huge lottery win, we are all just kvetching about our mundane car collections compared to the folks who can buy Picassos and spectacular Ferraris.

    It’s all about the tax right-off !!! They have big ego’s…Those that buy collectables have LLC or 501 C-3 companies and use them for a write off !!!

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