Gear: Book Review: McQueen's Machines

Book Review: McQueen’s Machines

By Benjamin Shahrabani
May 8, 2014

The book: McQueen’s Machines: The Cars and Bikes of a Hollywood Icon

Author: Matt Stone

Pages: 184

Purchase: Click here

Much has been written about Hollywood legend Steve McQueen, and much has also been written about how much he truly loved his cars and motorcycles. These machines were often featured front and center in many of his movies: Bullitt, The Great Escape, The Thomas Crown Affair, On Any Sunday, and Le Mans. Steve possessed a genuine talent behind the wheel of a car or aboard a bike, and it is well known that he performed many of his own stunts. Dare I say it, but were he alive today, he may even have been a Petrolicious reader. Like more that a few of his fellow actors, Steve had his own impressive menagerie of cars and motorcycles. McQueen’s Machines: The Cars and Bikes of a Hollywood Icon by Mr. Matt Stone (with a foreword, insight, and blessing from Steve’s son, Chad, no less) is a comprehensive catalogue of Steve’s vehicles throughout his life, and also sheds some light on him as an actor and driver.

While cars are the main focus, bike lovers aren’t left in the cold. Steve’s first passion was fast bikes, and he had more than a hundred in his collection prior to his death in 1980, at age fifty from cancer. Reprinted is a column Steve wrote for Popular Science in 1966, testing off-road bikes, and opinions expressed in those pages reaffirm his moto-credentials. As does a Sports Illustrated column where that magazine put together a veritable treasure trove of four wheeled machines for him to play with: a Jaguar E-type, Mercedes 230 SL, Aston Martin DB6, Alfa Romeo Duetto, Ferrari 275GTS, Shelby 427 Cobra, and a Porsche 911. His comments on each are reprinted from this too. The man knew his stuff. He wasn’t just an actor then, although in Sports Illustrated he writes “Understand that I am an actor, not a racing driver or an automotive engineer, but I’ve raced some, and I ain’t a bad driver…”

Author Matt Stone and Mr. Chad McQueen give the book a very complete feel in that we learn how and why Steve gravitated to a particular machine, how he acquired it, and where a lot of the collection resides today. How they were acquired over his lifetime and anecdotal stories and recollections about those machines give the book an added personal dimension. We also learn and even get modern day driving impressions of some of the cars, and there are many, with about half a dozen of the most important cars (to Steve) given a multi–page spread–the 1967 Ferrari 275 Nart Spyder, the Chevy-powered Jeep CJ, the 1963 Ferrari 250 Lusso, the 1957 Jaguar XK-SS, the 1958 Porsche Speedster, the 1953 Siata 208S, a 1967 Mini Cooper S, and of course the 1969 911S that was used in the opening scenes of Le Mans and that Steve owned personally.

With well researched background information and wonderful photographs, McQueen’s Machines is a testament to Steve McQueen’s sometimes eccentric collection of cars and bikes. He himself explained, “Billy Graham once asked me what my religion was, and I told him, ‘It’s the desert, the grass, the sun in the sky—and my wheels.’” McQueen could drive and he had taste too.

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Pawel Lewandowski
Pawel Lewandowski
6 years ago

As much as I am McQueen, his cars and stories fan and I do really like the book I cannot understand why Steve’s Ferrari 275GTB/4 has been forgotten by the author.

9 years ago

I received this book as a gift (insisted on by me;) ) when it first came out. I’m a huge McQueen fan and the book definitely delivers. It’s one of my favorite coffee table books. I can always thumb through the pages as it never gets old.

9 years ago

His quote about religion is so parsed-down and beautiful that I actually have goosebumps as I write this. Just awesome.

Andre L  Hulstaert
Andre L Hulstaert
9 years ago

While driving down Melrose Blvd in LA during the later 70’s I saw one of those Jaguar XKSS’s like the one Steve McQueen was fortunate to have. I could not resist and took a few shots (×3 ) I apologize for the poor quality of the pictures, but, bear in mind: these are scans from 35 year + old negatives.
There is an ongoing debate whether the one pictures is a real one or a replica, personally I do not know nor claim it to be either. One thing is for sure, with what I know now, I would have taken tons of pictures, also detail ones.

Matthew Lange
Matthew Lange
9 years ago

Cool pics but no question it is a replica. Aside from a number of detail differences the obvious give away is that it is left hand drive. All 16 original XK SS’ were Right hand drive as they were based on the right hand drive D type racer.