- Delivered new to Hollywood and motoring icon Steve McQueen on the set of Bullitt; owned by McQueen for more than four years
- Subsequently owned by TV star Guy Williams, of Zorro and Lost in Space fame
- Restored by Ferrari Classiche to McQueen’s original specification; Classiche certified in the autumn of 2013
- Currently owned by F1, Indy, and Le Mans racer Vern Schuppan
- With its history confirmed by Ferrari, the car was proudly displayed by the Maranello company in its own museum exhibit, From Cinecittà to Hollywood
300 bhp, 3,286 cc dual-overhead-camshaft-per-bank Colombo V-12 engine with six Weber carburetors, five-speed manual transmission, four-wheel upper and lower wishbone coil-spring independent suspension, and front and rear disc brakes. Wheelbase: 94.4 in.
The concours will be held October 12 on Rodeo Drive, will feature sixty of the most important Ferraris, and features dinner with Piero Ferrari and Luca di Montezemolo.
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Steve McQueen: Hollywood legend, racing driver, and car connoisseur extraordinaire. The Cooler King and the King of Cool. Few, if any, movie stars are so inextricably linked with classic cars and bikes than the star of Bullitt, The Getaway, The Thomas Crown Affair, Le Mans, and the brilliant motorcycling documentary On Any Sunday. Of course, many of the movie industry’s leading actors in the 1950s and 1960s enjoyed the glamour that came with exotic motoring, but only a handful were the real deal when it came to being fanatical about cars. Only a few of those actually convey historical importance and priceless desirability to a classic merely by their ownership, and at the top of that exclusive list is McQueen.
The Indiana-born marine-turned-actor, who was just as likely to be found in a car lot as a movie lot, was an obsessive enthusiast. He owned everything from his beloved Jauar XKSS to a Mini Cooper to a Ferrari 250 GT/L Lusso, which was the car that kicked off his devotion to Ferraris.
When he was at the height of his powers in 1967—the year in which he filmed both Bullitt and The Thomas Crown Affair—McQueen, impressed by the car that was featured in the latter of those movies, ordered a 275 N.A.R.T. Spyder from Chic Vandagriff at Hollywood Sport Cars.
However, disaster struck on pretty much its maiden voyage, when a driver went into the back of the N.A.R.T. on the Pacific Coast Highway. Chic’s son, Chris Vandagriff, remembers, “There were no pieces for the N.A.RT., and we had a guy, Clay Jensen, that worked on it at nights. It took an excruciating amount of time to repair. In the end, he [McQueen] was pretty burned out and sold it soon after.”
Frustrated with the N.A.R.T. being off the road, McQueen quickly bought another Ferrari from Chic Vandagriff, via Bill Harrah’s Modern Classic Motors in Reno, and this time it was a 275 GTB/4.
McQueen had already experienced the more “refined” Colombo V-12 in the 275, having tested a GTS for the August 1966 issue of Sports Illustrated. He noted then, “With more power than mine [referring to the Lusso] and a better power arc from its six-Weber carburetors…I was pushing 140 mph…It would take a lot of persuading to convince me that Enzo Ferrari can do anything wrong. To me, he is one of the finest engineers in the world.”
For many cognoscenti, the Ferrari 275 was the best looking of all Ferrari GTs in berlinetta form, which is attested by a roll call of such celebrity owners as James Coburn, George Harrison, Miles Davis, Eric Clapton, Clint Eastwood, and Peter Sellers. In 1964, it boasted Ferrari’s first transaxle and all-round independent suspension, but after just a couple of years, it was majorly updated and uprated. Significant developments included not just the introduction of the smoother and more powerful dry-sump, four-cam engine but also a redesigned transaxle and steadying torque tube. With 300 brake horsepower at 8,000 rpm from the 3,286-cubic centimeter V-12, the 275 GTB/4 was capable of 0–60 mph in 5.5 seconds and a top speed of 163 mph.
In all, fewer than 300 Ferrari 275 GTB/4s were built, and they could easily be identified by their longer boot hinges and longer nose, which was a feature that was introduced for the berlinettas in 1966 to prevent high-speed lift. These 275 GTB/4s remain as exotic and coveted today as they were in period.
To fill the gap left by the damaged N.A.R.T., McQueen bought a four-cam, specifically this car, chassis 10621, which was supplied to Modern Classic Motors by Maranello on November 21, 1967, after having been ordered a month earlier by U.S. agent Luigi Chinetti. Interestingly, Ferrari’s documents record that the factory price for the car was $8,244, compared to Chinetti’s price of $14,400!
The improved Berlinetta may have appealed to McQueen, but the color of his new car most certainly did not. It was delivered in Nocciola (“Hazelnut”), a sort of metallic gold, and before he even drove the car, the movie star ordered it to be changed. The job was entrusted to Lee Brown, who did a lot of work on McQueen’s cars at that stage and had prepped the Mustangs for Bullitt. Brown picked up the car from Hollywood Sport Cars and mixed a color he dubbed Chianti Red, which was very similar to that on the Thomas Crown Affair N.A.R.T., the vehicle McQueen walks past in one scene and refers to as “one of those red Italian things.” The actor agreed to the color and added some other changes, such as taking the Borrani wire wheels and bespoke wing mirror from the crashed N.A.R.T.. and transferring them to the 275 (the first model Ferrari supplied with Campagnolo alloy wheels, because it was feared wire wheels were not strong enough), as well as sending the Nero interior off to Tony Nancy for retrimming.
Brown recalls, “Steve was broken-hearted over the N.A.R.T. getting smacked, but he just really wanted another Ferrari to drive. He was in San Francisco filming Bullitt when he phoned me to say that he’d just bought a car. [He] asked me to collect it from Hollywood Sport Cars in Beverly Hills and to drive it to my shop and repaint it.” McQueen was photographed with the repainted 275 GTB/4 during the filming of the movie, and many on the Hollywood car scene remember him driving it regularly and with his customary gusto, one of whom was paint guru Junior Conway, who worked on the star’s cars for years. Conway says, “He drove his Ferraris so hard he broke the spokes on the wheels all the time, so he wound up putting solid wheels on the 275 GTB Coupe.” Conway was also called in on one occasion to repair some minor front-end damage.
Even when McQueen parted with the 275 GTB/4 in 1971, it stayed resolutely on the Hollywood scene, being bought by Zorro and Lost in Space star Guy Williams, who traded in his Maserati 3500 GT to buy it. In the five years of Williams’ ownership, the Ferrari was again well used, although it was resprayed bright red. Steve Catalano, a.k.a. Guy Williams Jr, who earned his allowance washing the Ferrari as a teenager, says, “I was a teenager when he got the car. I remember the racing gate on the shifter, and there was a magnetic St. Christopher medallion on the dash from the previous owner, who was Steve McQueen. I spoke with McQueen years later in the early 1980s, not too long before he died, and he remembered the car well.”
In 1976, Williams sold the Ferrari to J.P. Hyan, but following rear-end damage, it sat in Conway’s bodyshop in primer for most of his ownership, until California-based trucking magnate Robert Panella bought it in October 1980 for $32,000. Interestingly, when Panella took on the 275 GTB/4, it had some 20,000 miles on the odometer, and considering its lack of activity in Hyan’s ownership, the mileage confirms that both McQueen and Williams got plenty of use out of it.
It was during Panella’s ownership that Richard Straman was commissioned to carry out a $10,000 N.A.R.T. Spider conversion, using Scaglietti’s own bucks, before the 275 was resprayed in yellow. The Ferrari stayed with Panella for some 16 years, before it was bought by Eric Zausner, who owned it for four years, until it wound up with noted UK-based collector Andrew Pisker. During the nine years that Pisker kept the Ferrari, it had another colour change, this time to Argento Autil. This occurred before Australian yachtsman and historic racer Peter Harburg was put on to the car by a friend and fellow Aussie, 1983 Le Mans winner Vern Schuppan, in 2009, and he subsequenty bought it. Schuppan, a member of Australia’s motor racing elite, counts a Le Mans win, a top-three finish in the Indy 500, and driving for BRM in Formula One amongst his many career highlights. As a McQueen fan, Schuppan had the vision to return the 275 GTB/4 to Steve’s 1967 specifications, so he acquired the car from Harburg and began a process of restoration at Ferrari Classiche in Maranello, Italy. Most of the original parts that were removed during the N.A.R.T. conversion were located by Schuppan and reinstalled by Ferrari, including the pristine rear glass and chrome surround, the rear deck (trunk lid), and the internal roof buttress metal pressings. In order to achieve perfect alignment and fit of the roof panel, Ferrar’s experts built a full custom body jig.
So meticulous was the process carried out by Maranello’s finest in-house craftsmen that the 275 GTB/4 was even part-sprayed in its original Nocciola for assessment before it was returned to “McQueen spec” and sprayed over in Chianti Red, based on a swatch provided by Lee Brown himself.
While the Ferrari was at Classiche, all other necessary work was carried out to return it to exemplary condition. Its mechanical excellence was subsequently proven when it was “vigorously” tested at Ferrari’s Fiorano test track by the current owner and Classic & Sports Car magazine. The magazine noted, “It is no surprise that the 275 GTB/4 is quick, nor that it handles well, but as an out-and-out performance car, something you could just stick roundels on and compete in just as it is, the Ferrari far exceeds expectations. And yet, with its smooth ride, sharp, low-geared steering, and flat, neutral handling at sane road speeds, it similarly surpasses your hopes in how usable it might be off the track and in the real world.”
Since then, the 275 GTB/4 has been meticulously researched by former Porsche factory driver Schuppan, and it has been fully authenticated and certificated by Ferrari. Subsequently, the car has starred not only in the Museo Ferrari in Maranello (where it was a huge hit with visitors and the company was keen to keep it, with the car only being removed due to its sale,) but also at the Petersen Automotive Museum in California, where it was displayed alongside McQueen’s XKSS.
Even without the fantastically rich history that was painstakingly put together by Schuppan, which includes photos, parts, and interviews with just about everyone who has ever owned or been involved with the car, this 275 GTB/4 would be a compelling buy, because although always extremely desirable, in recent years there has been ballooning interest in Ferrari 275s, especially the coveted four-cam variants, which now rank among the most collectible of the Italian company’s road cars. Add in its King of Cool provenance—unrivalled in appeal when compared to sports cars owned by any other star—and it is something very special indeed.
As chassis 10621 boasts known and transparent history from the moment it was purchased by McQueen until the present day, it presents a unique opportunity to own an exceptional example of an iconic Ferrari GT with full Ferrari endorsement and unsurpassed Hollywood history.
The Ferrari comes with a very comprehensive and detailed file of documentation regarding every period of its history. Please consult with an RM specialist to inspect the file on site.