Published: December 19, 2006
Admiration for the “King of Cool” fueled bidding on Saturday, November 11, as Bonhams & Butterfields sold property from the widow of Steve McQueen at the Petersen Automotive Museum — bringing more than $1 million for vintage motorcycles, biking memorabilia, home furnishings and antique toys acquired by the actor and his wife Barbara. Motorbikes from various owners and Steve McQueen memorabilia from other collections brought as much as $1.9 million for a grand total of $2.9 million for the day.
Applause broke out in the crowded salesroom after many lots were hammered as “sold” by CEO and lead auctioneer Malcolm Barber. Several world record auction prices were achieved for rare machines and ephemera from noted collections. “Today, McQueen fans from across the globe acquired property from the legendary actor, with 100 percent of the lots offered by his widow sold to buyers,” said Barber moments after the sale had concluded.
Vice president and motoring department director Mark Osborne said, “The room was electrified with competitive bidding — and an international pool of bidders on telephones could sense the excitement in the room. This has been the most incredible auction I’ve had the pleasure of orchestrating.”
McQueen property, much never-before seen publicly, sold for many times the presale estimates —competitive bidding pushing the values higher and higher. A folding knife made by Von Dutch and inscribed to Steve sold for $38,025, well above its $7/12,000 estimate, while McQueen’s custom-made brown leather satchel, carried routinely by the actor, brought $40,950 ($1,5/3,000). The actor’s black cotton Belstaff motorcycle jacket sold for $32,760 ($2/4,000).
Other top lots included several items that set world records such as a circa 1934 Indian Sport Scout, one of the most successful models made in the 1930s and a McQueen favorite, sold for $177,500 above its $15/20,000 estimate, and McQueen’s circa 1920 Indian Powerplus Daytona racing bike that had a $60/90,000 estimate sold for $150,000.
Another world record was set for a 1958 GMC 101-series pickup truck, part of McQueen’s ten-car collection housed at a famous Beverly Hills hotel during his stays in Southern California, described by Barbara McQueen as “Steve’s baby,” brought $128,000. Despite a $2/3,000 estimate, $70,200 was paid for McQueen’s pair of Persol sunglasses with blue tinted lenses, believed to be worn in the opening scenes of The Thomas Crown Affair.
From the Silverman Museum Racing Collection and from various owners other top lots were a 1937 Crocker “Hemi-head” V-Twin motorcycle that set a world record at $276,500; the 1967 Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow two-door sedan from The Thomas Crown Affair went for $70,200; a circa 1927 McEvoy-JAP 8/45 hp, a rare example owned by the founder of the McEvoy company that produced bikes in the United Kingdom from 1925 until only 1929, restoration by John Sears, achieved $111,150; and a 1904/05 FN four-cylinder, the earliest known surviving example as the Belgian company ceased production in the mid-1920s, sold for $102,375, well above its $60/80,000 estimate. Not old, but the 2005 Triumph 865cc Bonneville Scrambler ridden by Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible III sold for $29,250.
All prices quoted reflect the buyer’s premium.
Bonhams & Butterfields is at 7601 Sunset Boulevard. For more information, www.bonhams.com/us.
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