McQueen working on his Jaguar SK SS between takes on the set of his TV series Wanted, Dead or Alive.
Steve McQueen, the undisputed King Of Cool. On the silver screen, McQueen could say more with a look, or a body inflection than most actors can say with 5 pages of script dialog. From Nevada Smith, to Bullitt, and Papillon, to Tom Horn and The Hunter (the last two being released in 1980, the year McQueen died from cancer at age 50), nobody put themselves into a movie role like Steve McQueen did.
Aside from his acting, Steve McQueen was an avid motorcyclist, car and motorcycle racer, enthusiast, and collector, and for the most part never lost that "common man" aspect in his life, like so many Hollywood types do. When McQueen died, he owned more than 40 cars of all types, over 100 motorcycles of every vintage, and several aircraft. He didn't own them because he could, he owned them because he loved every mechanical aspect of those machines.
I think what I found most inspiring about Steve McQueen was the way he lived his life. McQueen understood that regardless of what your job was, or where your station in life fell, it was very important to take the time - no - MAKE the time to do what you really enjoyed, because that's how you recharge your spirit. Too often we loose our perspective on things, and forget where our priorities should lie. McQueen never lost his perspective. It was more common to find him thrashing thru the desert with Bud Ekins on one of his Triumphs , or out on Mulholland cutting a fast corner in his Cobra than it was to find him sitting with studio exec's. I know I get wrapped up in the day to day, and thinking of the way Steve McQueen went thru life always seems to reign me back in again.
A little sidenote on McQueen's above pictured Jag SK SS. It was one of 16 Jaguars that were basically a thinly legal street version of their factory Le Mans racer. McQueen bought it in '55, and it was originally white. McQueen had it painted a deep British Racing Green, and had Tony Nancy redo the interior in black leather. McQueen's buddy Von Dutch made a door to cover the glove compartment in engine-turned aluminum. The story goes McQueen didn't like his smokes and sunglasses flying out of the open compartment, so Dutch fixed him up. McQueen owned the car until around '67, then he sold it to Harrah, with the stipulation it remain on permanant exhibit in his museum. Sometime in the early '70's, McQueen wanted to buy it back, and it took him 2 years to do it. He owned it until he died. After his death, Robert Peterson acquired the car, and you can see it in the Peterson Automotive Museum today. I've seen it, and it is choice.
And, you want to know something creepy? Steve McQueen was supposed to go up to the Tate House the night that the Manson Family slaughtered everybody that was there. He changed his evening plans at the last minute, and decided not to go. Wow.