|Iconic Steve McQueen Husqvarna sold for world record amount|
An iconic Husqvarna 400 Cross, which belonged to Hollywood star Steve McQueen was sold by auction in Carmel, California on 14 May. Bonhams sold the legendary actor’s 1971 Husqvarna 400 Cross motorcycle – a machine identical to the one he famously rode shirtless on the cover of Sports Illustrated – for a new world record at an estimate-shattering price of $144,500.
This iconic Husky was ridden hard by one of Hollywood’s most loved leading men. It is a special piece of McQueen memorabilia and was ridden properly by a movie actor who happened to be a fantastic and talented racer – and had a considerable collection of racing trophies to prove it.
The rare Husqvarna 400 Cross motorcycle was the latest in a line of big-bore motocross models that combined fearsome power and superb handling. Up to that point, many off-road riders endured heavier, twin-cylinder street models stripped and lightened as much as possible; even so, they were heavy and cumbersome. Along came the two-stroke Husky 400 Cross, featuring a powerful single-cylinder engine suspended in a lightweight steel frame.
It was the movie On Any Sunday that introduced many Americans to the wonderful world of off-road riding. Husqvarnas were featured in the legendary motorcycle movie, which really put the company on the map for US riders. Seeing motorcycle legend Malcolm Smith and McQueen kick up long rooster-tails of sand on the beach outside of Camp Pendleton inspired many new dirt-bike enthusiasts. In fact, Smith said of McQueen that he had “discovered a rider who probably could have competed at a professional level, had he chosen that line of work.”
The Husky 400 Cross was a brutal, unforgiving motorcycle, difficult to ride well, which McQueen absolutely did. It embodied McQueen’s desire to be taken seriously as a rider and racer, and his mastery of the Husky only helps fuel his legend.
Like many off-road enthusiasts, McQueen collected many examples of bikes he loved, using some as ‘parts bikes’ and others to lend to friends as an inducement to come riding. He was not above using his fame to encourage a sale, according to long-time friend and The Great Escape stunt double Bud Ekins, who said: “Steve would apply the pressure if he found something he really wanted. He’d tell the seller, ‘Don’t you want to be able to say you sold your bike to Steve McQueen?’ And it worked.”
As off-road motorcycle racing evolved through the 1960s and early 1970s, a movement began away from lightly-modified street bikes toward machines designed from the outset for competition. In this period before the Japanese manufacturers came to be involved, the Europeans set the trends, building ever lighter and more powerful machines. Husqvarna came to epitomize the success of motorcycles developed for and extensively raced in competition. Its models won 14 motocross and 24 enduro titles through the late 1970s.
The Bonhams sale of Collectors’ Motorcycles and Related Memorabilia took place on Saturday 14 May at the Quail Lodge in Carmel Valley, California. As well as the McQueen Husqvarna and many items of memorabilia, there was also exquisite machinery from BMW for sale, including a 1925 R 32. This early and very rare motorcycle from the Bavarian Motor Works would become the blueprint for all subsequent BMWs. It sold for $139,000 – what is believed to be a new world record for the model.