Steve McQueen’s cherished off-road motorcycle sold at auction for 6,500

Steve McQueen’s cherished off-road motorcycle sold at auction for $186,500

A motorcycle cherished by the King of Cool, Steve McQueen, and kept in his collection until he died in 1980 was offered to the highest bidder on Friday and sold for a whopping $186,500 (£157,400).

The 1971 Husqvarna 400 Cross is said to be one of the actor’s favourite bikes in an extensive collection, and it has barely been ridden or modified since he owned it.

The off-road motorbike went to the block at the Bonhams Quail Lodge auction held during Monterey Car Week in California, with the winning bid well above the pre-sale estimate.

King of Cool’s bike makes big money: This 1971 Husqvarna 400 Cross was formerly owned by Steve McQueen and is said to be one of his favourites of his massive collection

McQueen was famously a talented rider and often entered US competitions, often favouring to enter on motorcycles from Swedish brand Husqvarna, which was dominating the off-road racing scene in the sixties and seventies.

His love of two wheels partly inspired the 1971 motorcycle racing documentary film On Any Sunday, in which the Indiana-born actor features astride a very similar machine to this one.

That Husqvarna motorbike – which is mechanically very similar – was also sold by Bonhams at auction four years ago, reaching $230,500.

While this examples didn’t quite live up to that fee, its $186,000 winning price was well above the $130,000 lower estimate and even exceeded the top pre-sale prediction of $180,000.

Demand for the motorcycle was high, mainly due to its untouched condition and the documentation sold with it to prove it as one of the most cherished in the actor’s huge two-wheeled collection.

The motorcycle went to the block on Friday with the winning bidder paying over the higher estimate to get their hands on a machine that's barely been used since McQueen owned it

The motorcycle went to the block on Friday with the winning bidder paying over the higher estimate to get their hands on a machine that’s barely been used since McQueen owned it

The specific bike sold at auction last week is one of many the King of Cool had, but is said to be his favourite of all. Pictured: McQueen riding a different Husqvarna 400 Cross in 1970

At one point in his life, McQueen reportedly owned up to 200 motorcycles. Among them was the 1971 model (pictured, McQueen riding a similar bike in 1970)

At one point in his life, McQueen reportedly owned up to 200 motorcycles – and among them was this 1971 model.

It’s one of many the King of Cool had, but this is claimed to be his favourite.

And, if the seller is to be believed, it has not been ridden since it was in the hands of the silver screen icon.

Bonhams said before the sale that it is ‘perhaps the best known of all McQueen’s Huskys by virtue of a known provenance and documentation from the time it was acquired by the star and remaining in his possession as one of his go-to bikes for the rest of his life’ and was eventually sold as part of his estate.

It was lot number 664 at the Steve McQueen Auction at Imperial Palace in November 1984, in Las Vegas, Nevada, some four years after his death.

The bike has since passed through three subsequent owners before being acquired by the vendor 11 years ago. 

The 400 Cross combined fearsome power and superb handling thanks to its lightweight frame and single-cylinder 400cc engine, but was also renowned for being difficult to ride

The 400 Cross combined fearsome power and superb handling thanks to its lightweight frame and single-cylinder 400cc engine, but was also renowned for being difficult to ride 

The motorcycle was sold at auction in 'last ridden by McQueen' condition, and 'not started', with all the dents and scratches from the King of Cool's hard riding

The motorcycle was sold at auction in ‘last ridden by McQueen’ condition, and ‘not started’, with all the dents and scratches from the King of Cool’s hard riding

The off-road motorcycle remained in McQueen's collection until his death in November 1980. It was sold four years later as part of an auction of his estate

The off-road motorcycle remained in McQueen’s collection until his death in November 1980. It was sold four years later as part of an auction of his estate

While McQueen had various examples that were used as ‘parts bikes’ for spares, this wasn’t the case with frame number ‘MI3845’, the auction house said.

It was sold with a certificate of authenticity, plus the bill of sale issued to the buyer at the 1984 Estate Auction, and the original registration document in the name Solar Productions that accompanied the lot when it appeared on the California stage on Friday.

The original 1984 estate auction lot tag was also part of the sale with the machine as additional provenance.

The bike is described by the seller as being in ‘last ridden by McQueen’ condition, and ‘not started’, with all the dents and scratches from the King of Cool’s hard riding. 

Since it sold at the McQueen estate auction in 1984 it has had three subsequent owners before being acquired by previous keeper in 2001

Since it sold at the McQueen estate auction in 1984 it has had three subsequent owners before being acquired by previous keeper in 2001

'While other McQueen motorcycles have come to light in recent times, there can be no doubt as to the history and originality of this machine,' says Bonhams

‘While other McQueen motorcycles have come to light in recent times, there can be no doubt as to the history and originality of this machine,’ says Bonhams

The Husqvarna retains all of the McQueen-implemented modifications, which includes a leather gear shift protector

The Husqvarna retains all of the McQueen-implemented modifications, which includes a leather gear shift protector

As you can see from this image, the motorcycle still has a spare spark plug that McQueen duct-taped to the frame in case it was needed while out riding

As you can see from this image, the motorcycle still has a spare spark plug that McQueen duct-taped to the frame in case it was needed while out riding

It even retains all of the McQueen-implemented modifications, which includes a leather gear shift protector and a spare spark plug he duct-taped to the frame in case it was needed while out riding. 

In its heyday, the 400 Cross combined fearsome power and superb handling thanks to its lightweight frame and single-cylinder 400cc engine, but was also renowned for being difficult to ride.

It was produced in a period before plastics were used in motorcycle manufacturing, meaning it has a sculpted aluminium fuel tank with a polished section to help reduce marring where the rider meets the bike. 

‘The preservation of MI3845 is a credit to the discerning owners post McQueen who have preserved MI3845 in its original McQueen owned state,’ the auction house said before the hammer dropped on Friday.

‘While other McQueen motorcycles have come to light in recent times, there can be no doubt as to the history and originality of this machine,’ Bonhams added.

‘It is a ‘blue chip’ piece of McQueen memorabilia, if you like, suitable for shows, demos – after some sympathetic recommissioning – or museum display use, using the legend ‘as last ridden by the late and utterly charismatic Steve McQueen’ as a fitting epitaph.’

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