Editor’s Note: this book review was originally published in October 2007.
Many car nuts have taken a liking to a given car after it has been on the big screen or on TV. The Bullitt 1968 Mustang, the Smokey and the Bandit 1977 Pontiac (SE) Trans Am, The Dukes of Hazzard 1969 Dodge Charger, the Knight Rider (modified) 1982 Trans Am (K.I.T.T.), etc. are some examples of famous cars from the big and little screen that even the most inept would immediately recognize. The funny thing is that most actors, who drive these famous cars in the movies or on TV, generally are not car nuts. They play a part and play it well but that’s the extent of their brush with the car hobby. For instance could you see David Hasselhoff owning a K.I.T.T. replica? Or how about the Hoff changing the oil or performing a brake job on a 1982 Trans Am? I just don’t see it happening. However for the many stars who drive hot cars in the movies and/or TV, there are a small select few that are real true car fanatics. One of these true fanatics would have to be Steve McQueen. Steve not only loved cars and motorcycles – he raced them, turned wrenches on them, and even modified them.
Matt Stone an executive editor from Motor Trend magazine, has recently released a new book called McQueen’s Machines: The Cars and Bikes of a Hollywood Icon. This hardcover book is a must read for any Steve McQueen fan or any gearhead for that matter. When reading the book it becomes apparent that Chad McQueen the son of the late Steve McQueen assisted in the endeavor of making this book and helped in making this book a reality.
What Matt Stone gives you with this book is a full view for how cars and motorcycles were a central part of McQueen’s life. This love of fast moving machinery was obviously passed down to his son Chad. There is even a picture in the book of Chad driving a 2001 Mustang Bullitt GT catching air on the same San Francisco streets his father had done the same deed with a hopped-up 1968 Mustang for (the movie) Bullitt (1968). Any car or motorcycle fan would enjoy the book even if it had no text, because the book is loaded with so many great pictures. There are even rare photos showing Steve McQueen next to his trusty old Ford pickup trucks relegated to work duty on his ranch. One photo even shows a bearded McQueen who looked more like Grizzly Adams than a Hollywood star standing next to one of these pickups.
The book covers in detail McQueen’s many cars including his favorite Porsches, 1953 Hudson Hornet, 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air convertible equipped with the factory fuel injected 283 (CID) V8, and so many other great cars. McQueen’s favorite motorcycles are also covered in great detail in the book.
Stone could have merely wrote the book to be a catalog of all the cars and motorcycles that Steve McQueen personally owned, but he instead took the difficult route and expanded coverage to also include the many cars that McQueen drove in his different movie roles. This included the Rolls Royce used in The Thomas Crown Affair (1968), the Bullitt 1968 Mustang, the Porsche 911 from Le Mans (1971), 1979 Trans Am that was blown up in The Hunter (1980), and many others are covered in the book. To add to the showcasing of these many movie cars is a breakdown of some of the behind the scenes and stunt information associated with these different cars. For Bullitt fans, there is a plethora of behind the scenes information revealed related to what can only be summed up as the greatest chase scene in movie history (a 390 CID V8 powered 1968 Mustang fastback versus a 440 CID V8 equipped 1968 Charger R/T).
And as one would assume, the information about the greatest motorcycle jump in the history of cinema is also covered in this book. The Great Escape motorcycle jump that McQueen’s character made across a tall barbed wire fence is explained in detail.
Not forgetting one of McQueen’s favorite pastimes, also covered in the book is his professional racing career. The highlight of which was the 1970 Sebring race where McQueen garnered a very close second place finish to the great Mario Andretti.
Stone does a great job of covering the many aspects of McQueen’s machinery in his book. It is a very well written book that keeps the reader entertained through the book’s entirety. In fact you’ll find this book will be hard to put down once you start reading.
One thing’s for sure, Steve McQueen may no longer be around (having succumbed to cancer in 1980) to enjoy automobiles, motorcycles, and racing but his spirit lives on. Stone’s book helps the reader gain a real awareness of the many facets to McQueen’s love of cars and motorcycles.
Written contents in this article – © 2007 Pete Dunton – All Rights Reserved