• What Would Steve McQueen Drive Today?

Forget James Dean — he couldn’t drive. Forget James Bond — he wasn’t even real. Forget any James you please, because even 35 years on, Steve McQueen is still the yardstick of cool for gearheads worldwide.

Kids today might look at people like the late Paul Walker as being icons of motoring stardom, but Walker was merely a would-be inheritor of McQueen’s crown. He knew it, too — remember O’Connor’s nickname in the F&F series? That would be "Bullitt," a direct reference to Steve McQueen and the most famous car chase ever put to film.

McQueen’s impact extends a lot further than Hollywood, too; it’s probably no coincidence that almost every model of car he ever owned or drove has been brought back to production, never went out of production, or still exists in the form of a modern successor. Sadly, Steve himself is no longer with us. Though it is worth mentioning that he probably went out in the most gearhead way possible: from years of exposure to asbestos-lined fireproof racing suits. Hard core.

But aside from a long legacy of cars, film and influence, we’re still decades removed from the last thing the King of Cool actually drove. With word afresh of his last ride (a 1976 Porsche 930 Turbo Carrera) going up for auction in Monterey, now is as good a time as any to ask:

What might we find in Steve McQueen’s garage today?

Continue reading for the full story.

Steve’s Cars

For this list, for the most part, we’re going to stay away from movie cars. Not necessarily because Steve wouldn’t drive them if he could, but just because many were chosen as much for convenience, price or screen presence as anything else. Typical Hollywood stuff, and not necessarily his first choice. Rather, we’re going to look at the vehicles he drove off-screen and on the street.

McQueen was a big fan of lightweight, European sports cars — true track-ready drivers’ cars befitting a driver of his ability. The short list includes the aforementioned 1976 Porsche, a 1970 Porsche 911S and 356 Speedster, a 1953 Siata 208S (an Italian-tuned Fiat which Steve called his "little Ferrari"), three actual Ferraris (a 275 GTS, 1967 Ferrari 275 GTS/4 NART Spyder and a GTB/4) and of course, his almost daily driven 1956 Jaguar XKSS.

Steve also owned a 1968 Ford GT40 and a 1963 Shelby Cobra, both with the 289 small-block. The fact that he owned the 289 cars and not the 427 models is actually pretty telling in itself. As associated as he is with big-block muscle cars (thanks largely to Bullitt), Steve was evidently not a huge fan of them. Sorry, Mustang fans: The King of Cool wouldn’t be caught dead in a 390 Mustang in real life. He would have considered it an overpowered and poor-handling pig of a "sports car."

But McQueen’s love of speed had a second side; almost the polar opposite of the lightweight sports cars that most people think of him owning. Having grown up in the early days of stock car racing(when they literally raced stock cars), McQueen developed an early love for big, fast sedans. The best known of his collection was a 6.3-liter 1972 Mercedes-Benz 300 SEL — the fastest sedan in the world at the time. But he also owned a slew of post-war American sedans, including several Packards, four Hudsons (including a Hornet and a Wasp), a Lincoln, a Cadillac, and a Chevrolet Styleline Deluxe Convertible for cruising around in the California sunshine. All models but the last were used extensively in stock car racing through the 1950s, and all took turns being the fastest sedan in the world at one time or another.

But Steve’s pride and joy — the vehicle he loved above every Ferrari, Shelby, Hudson or Mercedes in his collection — was this:

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Yes, that is indeed a 1958 101-Series GMC pickup truck, exactly as Steve owned and drove it for decades. With a 336 c.i. V-8, this truck already came with the best power-to-weight ratio in its class. But after a bunch of hot-rodding and work under the hood, this "wolf in sheep’s clothing" eventually became the terror of Beverly Hills. That’s right — "Steve’s Baby," as his wife called it, racked up quite a reputation, simply blowing off the moneyed elite of California in their European supercars. On wide whitewall tires, no less.

Steve’s off-road exploits are well-known and documented, as is his love for motorcycles, airplanes and boats. Pretty much anything with an engine really. He had a particular love of motorcycles, and his collection and preferences are well-known at this point. Frankly, I know absolutely nothing about motorcycles, don’t want to and don’t care — mostly because they all look and ride like either Hondas or Harleys now. It’s probably safe to assume he’d own one of each and call it a day for motorcycles. Let’s just call that due process for bikes, and move on to proper transportation.

So, now, with a little conjecture, a bottle of Jack and a pack of Viceroys at the ready, let’s see what today’s auto market might have to offer for The King of Cool.

2016 Porsche 991 GT3 RS

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Of course Steve’s stable would have to include at least one Porsche 911. But I don’t think it would necessarily (or even probably) be the fastest one — that being the 2014 Porsche 911 Turbo S. Yes, it’s got 552 horsepower, hits 62 mph in 3.1 seconds and does 198 mph. But it’s also complicated, relatively heavy, and uses all-wheel drive. The GT3 offers almost the same speed, but it’s lighter, more stripped-down and most crucially of all, rear-wheel drive. Steve would see the GT3 as more of a driver’s car, and the Turbo S as a highly competent GT car.

Right up until his later years, with the fully optioned 1976 Turbo, Steve generally liked to keep his racers and cruisers separate, and wouldn’t have been a big fan of the modern luxury GT approach. If that’s what he’d wanted, he could have just as easily bought an Aston Martin V8 Vantage in 1977. The fact that he spent the same money on a Porsche 911 Turbo probably means something. All things considered, it’s probably a safe bet that the GT3 RS would occupy Porsche’s slot in the modern McQueen garage.

Read our full review here.

2014 Ferrari 458 Speciale

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To be brutally honest, I’m not entirely convinced Steve would like any Ferrari currently on offer — but if he’s got to have one, it would probably be this. "Why not the LaFerrari?" you might say. Mostly because compared to the GTB, he would see the LaFerrari as too big, too ugly, and too expensive for a big, ugly Ferrari. Steve was always a fan of clean lines and sexy curves, and he would probably say the LaFerrari looked like Marilyn Monroe if she grew a hunchback and then fell down the stairs at Notre Dame. He probably wouldn’t be seen in that.

True, the 458 Speciale weighs about 600 pounds more than the LaFerrari, but it’s a lot smoother looking, and Steve would like the fact he could order it as an open-top roadster. And he’d probably donate the million dollars saved over buying the LaFerrari to his favorite charity: The Boys Republic Reform School in Chino, California.

Read our full review here.

2017 Ford GT

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No doubt, McQueen would be first in line for the new Ford GT that Ford debuted this year. Not just because it’s a Ford GT, but mostly because this new car hearkens back in every way to the GT40 he originally owned. No, it doesn’t look as much like the GT40 as the last GT, but in spite of that, Steve would take this car in a heartbeat.

While Ford’s decision to go with an EcoBoost V-6 might have ruffled some feathers down in muscle-town, McQueen would see this 600-horsepower mill as an absolutely ideal successor to the 289 small-block in his own car. McQueen liked his racers smart, light, small-displacement, high-tech, high-revving and rear-wheel-drive. As long as Ford delivers on its promise of providing "one of the best power-to-weight ratios of any production car," this GT would probably end up Steve’s favorite mid-engine weekend toy.

Read our full review here.

2015 Dodge Charger Hellcat

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Given Steve’s love of insanely fast sedans with NASCAR connections, is there any doubt he’d end up with a Charger Hellcat in the garage? At 707 horsepower, the Hellcat is easily the most powerful sedan in the world; and at 3.7 seconds to 60 mph and 205 mph on the top end, it’s also currently the fastest. He would almost certainly see the Hellcat as this century’s Hudson Hornet — which it basically is. I don’t doubt for a second Steve would have bought the first one off the production line, if for no other reason than to add another "world’s fastest sedan" to his lineup of post-war Cadillacs, Lincolns and Hudsons.

Read our full review here.

2014 Bentley Flying Spur

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This seems like a natural fit as Steve’s high-speed European luxury sedan, a la the 1972 Mercedes SEL. Why not the current 2016 Mercedes S-Class Maybach? Mostly because Steve would say it was ugly, and lacked any kind of style, presence or sex appeal. The Flying Spur definitely looks like something The King of Cool would drive; the S-Class looks like something his accountant would drive. The Bentley is a real driver’s car, which would have made McQueen happy; the Merc doesn’t care if anyone’s happy unless they’re sitting in the back seat sipping champagne.

Read our full review here.

2014 Subaru BRZ or the 2016 Mazda MX5/Miata

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"Huh?" you say. You bet, for a lot of reasons. McQueen did like his high-dollar exotics, but he truly loved small, cheap, fun, front-engine, rear-drive sports cars in the classic British mold. While Steve wasn’t a big fan of Japanese cars in his lifetime, he’d have a hard time finding a reason not to buy either a Subaru BRZ or Mazda’s new Miata successor. He’d almost certainly own the Mazda on the basis that it’s an open-top roadster, and an almost default choice for that role right now. At least until the Alfa Romeo Duetto Roadster comes along; even though some thought it’ll effectively just be a re-badged Mazda Miata.

Either of these would have to fill the role of Steve’s prize Jag XKSS, unless someone else comes out with a comparable compact roadster. Jag’s current XK might fill the role, but likely not. Steve would probably say its size, weight and V-8 power take it well out of the original XKSS compact roadster arena.

The BRZ would be a serious candidate for a closed-roof car. McQueen would like the fact that the BRZ used a boxer engine, just like his favorite Porsches, and its general proportions ape pretty closely any number of classic closed-roof sports cars, including the Ferrari GTB. This might, in fact, become Steve’s new "little Ferrari." He’d go with the BRZ because it comes in stripped down RA trim, and because it’s a lot smoother and sleeker than the angular Scion.

You can check out our Mazda MX5/Miata review here and the Subaru BRZ review here.

2015 Ford F-150 XL

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Finally, saving the best for last, we come to a replacement for "Steve’s Baby." You might think that GMC would be the logical choice here, but it’s highly doubtful considering McQueen’s priorities and what Ford’s offering. Remember, Steve originally purchased his GMC 101 specifically because it was a sleeper with the best power-to-weight ratio of any truck available at the time.

Tick the right option boxes, and a base F-150 could be exactly that. Actually, you only need to tick two of them: "two doors" and "5.0-liter engine." That’s it. Nothing else. For a mere $800 over the base price ($26,600 total), Steve could get a stripped-down F-150 with two doors, rear-wheel-drive and 385 horses of V-8 muscle. If he wanted to, Steve could go for the 365-horse EcoBoost instead, but I’ve got a pretty strong suspicion he would go eight cylinders all the way in this case. Plus, lacking any modern 289 c.i. small-block, he’d see a 5.0-liter as close enough.

Shame Ford doesn’t offer wide whitewall tires anymore. But I’m sure that’s nothing The King of Cool couldn’t handle on his own.

Read our full review here.

Richard Rowe
Richard Rowe
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