Tag Archives: Steve McQueen

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Cars, Bikes and The Cooler King: The 2013 Friends of Steve McQueen Car and Motorcycle Show

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It has been a quiet time here on the DDC front, in common with almost everyone else, the 2013 Le Mans 24 Hours wiped us out. However green shoots are now emerging and first up is a look at a cool car show that happened earlier in California. So thanks to Lizett for the eloquent copy and to Bruce for the stunning imagery.

 

There’s something really gratifying about witnessing an event take on a life of it’s own, and after five years that’s exactly what is happening here. That satisfaction intensifies when the gathering benefits a worthy cause. Throw some star power into the mix and you have a potent prescription for long-term success.

Based each year on a McQueen movie theme, The Sixth Annual Friends of Steve McQueen Car and Motorcycle Show, held in June, revolved around The Great Escape. The one-day a year event featured more than 300 cars and nearly 100 motorcycles on display to approximately 5,000 attendees. The proof is in the numbers.

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“The first year we made about $14,000 with about 200 cars,” said co-chairman, Ron Harris. “This year we approached $250,000.

The cause is the Boys Republic of Chino Hills, CA. Established in 1907, the school is a private, non-profit community for at-risk teens. Steve McQueen attended from 1947-49 and credited the school for pointing him on the path to success. McQueen never forgot and was a frequent visitor, even after he became a Hollywood star and legend.

“He stayed in constant touch with the school and when he passed away, he left a nice chunk of change to build a recreation center,” said Chad McQueen, son of the famous actor.

The McQueen family continues that involvement through the car show and other activities.

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This year, spectators enjoyed a diverse collection of the classic, the expensive and the rare. Highlights included Bruce Canepa’s Coooper T-52 Formula Junior and Chad McQueen’s black Speedster, both owned at one time by Chad’s famous father. A very original 1965 Ford GT40, 1949 Belly Tank Lakester and Roush Mustang were crowd favorites. A 1935/41 Miller-Ford NOVI-Winfield drew many admirers, as did the impressive gathering of Porsches and Mustangs. Steve McQueen’s love of all things two-wheeled are well documented and the motorcycle display paid tribute with affection. The man would have applauded the choice of the 1940 Zundapp motorcycle with sidecar that was the recipient of The Great Escape Trophy.

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When it comes to war movies, director John Sturges 1963 film, The Great Escape, is likely on every World War II aficionado’s list of “must haves”. As the car crowd mingled and strolled the Boys Republic campus, a realistic reproduction of Stalag Luft III, the POW camp depicted in the movie, stood as silent sentry, complete with guard tower, cooler, tunnel, and barbed wire fencing.

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The set exploded into life as the California Historical Group, a World War II living history association, re-enacted the legendary escape scene portrayed in the film, complete with McQueen’s character, Hilts, infamous motorcycle jump atop a Triumph SR6 650 masquerading as a German GMW R75. Rifle-carrying German soldiers fired on the M4A1 Sherman tank as a P-51 Mustang, complements of Chino Airport Planes of Fame Museum, performed a flyover.

“The show gets bigger and better every year,” said Chad. “Of course, we have the Porsches, which will always be standard fare with my Dad, but also a pretty eclectic mix of cars and motorcycles.”

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Chad said he has so many memories as a small boy with a famous father. He offered this recollection of the film Le Mans:

“You had a young kid and his whole life was cars and motorcycles and nothing else. I was there for five months surrounded by racecars and racecar drivers. I was ten. It was just sensory overload. I think the high point was my Dad putting me on his lap for a ride in the 917, that was pretty bitchin’.”

Anyone out there care to disagree ?

Lizett Bond, July 2013

 

 

24 Hours at the Starlight

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A recent celebration of the Steve McQueen classic “Le Mans” in Los Angeles brought out all the stars. DDC’s own Bond Girl was on hand to add lustre to the occasion and here she gives her take on the screening.

When the film “Le Mans” was released in 1971, I was barely driving. It was the era of the Saturday night date at the local drive-in theater. I saw “Le Mans” at the Starlight. Please rest assured that any exuberance exhibited while watching cars racing around a track in the French countryside existed purely for the benefit of the boyfriend of the moment. However, it wasn’t all feigned. There was that crush on Steve McQueen. As far as I was concerned, the King of Cool just embodied the sexy Hollywood superstar. So while a trip to the drive-in to see Le Mans was, for some, all about the racing footage, I just wanted to gaze up into those dazzling blue eyes. Talk about a passion pit.

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In the racing world, however, it wasn’t just about McQueen’s taciturn Michael Delaney and those charismatic facial expressions. Beyond his craft, enthusiasts respected the man as a competent racer, making the role a realistic fit. For all that, the movie itself co-starred in pole position with the Circuit de la Sarthe. Considered by many to be the most influential racing film ever made, some forty years later, “Le Mans” enjoys an almost cult like following. From Delaney’s slate gray 911S, to the Heuer Monaco on his wrist, to the 917 in Gulf Colors, the film resonates.

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Still, aside from McQueen, just who and what were we actually watching? For starters, actual footage from the 1970 24 Heures du Mans. Moving on from there, how about a supporting cast including the likes of Brian Redman and Jo Siffert to name just a few of the notables – piloting various Porsche 917’s and Ferrari 512’s. In addition to list of drivers named in the credits was a very young Jürgen Barth. When asked of his own role in the film, Barth replied, “I drove the 911 that caused the crash.” We were watching legends at work, no wonder it all appeared to be so authentic.

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Voyeuristically, we screamed along the Mulsanne Straight in the rain, at night and in the home stretch. And that’s what makes the film more of a documentary, that insider’s perspective. At the time, a good percentage of us truly had no idea we were watching the real deal as we munched popcorn and steamed up the windows of our own rides.

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Today, aside from in-home, Blu-Ray screenings, the chance to revisit “Le Mans” on the big screen is almost never going to happen. But the opportunity did arise recently, and what better venue than The Chinese Theater in LaLa Land? Hollywood is not only the land of the star, but playground to the luxurious, the fast, the cool, the expensive automobile. These attributes converged at the Turner Classic Movie Festival with Porsche Cars North America joining the celebration by hosting Club TCM, held at a venerable hotel. A pre-screening discussion presented two of racing’s own cool cats, Derek Bell and Vic Elford, on the dias, and rounding out the expertise was McQueen’s son, Chad. Each reminisced about a simpler time in racing, about McQueen and his driving, his personality and their own experiences during the filming of the movie.

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Basking in the glitz and glamour of Tinseltown, the approach to Hollywood’s Roosevelt Hotel revealed two Porsches positioned on their own crimson runner; a brand-new, bright yellow 991, and a black, completely original 1965 911. Needing no introductions, the pair stood in silent welcome as fans of the film and the marque arrived to revisit 1971 in the comfort of Hollywood’s Chinese Theater.

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It may not have been the Starlight, but then again, I’ve been driving for a long time now.

 

Lizett Bond, May 2013

Photos courtesy of Lizett and scans courtesy of Michael Keyser, taken from my review of his book on the making of the movie

http://www.doubledeclutch.com/?p=3224

 

I See It Shining Plain………..

The internet has for the most part been beneficial to me. It allows me to conduct what passes for my business in some sort of order and it has introduced me to many good people around the globe. It is also the biggest time waster invented since bureaucrats crawled out of the swamps in Jurassic times, but I digress.

Michael Keyser is someone who should be familiar to sportscar fans, especially the more fanatical amongst you. Real anoraks will recall him winning the 1976 Sebring 12 Hours with Al Holbert, well the few that were sober at that particular event. As the doyen of chassis plate fondlers, Janos Wimpffen, describes the scene in his epic work Time and Two Seats.

“None of the on-track incidents were as thrilling as those of the notorious Green Park spectator area. Several large bonfires had been started, wild parties were in full swing, and one section by Turn Seven had been taken over by a motorcycle gang. In full view of the passing race cars, a woman mounted a bike and performed a striptease. Needless to say, lap times slowed considerably.”

Typical of me to miss fun like that, still ’76 was the long, hot summer of James Hunt and I am sure that he would have enjoyed racing in such conditions. I certainly have some vague memories of a few wild days myself that year, it was the spirit of the time, but perhaps I imagined it all.

Michael Keyser is also known for his work as an author and film maker, in particular “A French Kiss With Death” about Steve McQueen and the making of the movie Le Mans.

Le Mans is certainly a candidate for the Oscar awarded to maddest film ever conceived. No plot to speak of, no dialogue really and obsessively focused on a race that most the audience had never heard of. It was a commercial disaster when released but since has grown to achieve cult status. Partly this is a consequence of the purity of the production, no CGI and McQueen’s insistence on emulating real racing from the time rather than allowing a Hollywood blockbuster approach.

Perhaps the greatest appeal lies in the cast of cars, Porsche 917s and Ferrari 512s, surely some of the most evocative racers ever run. Like racing dragonflies they emerged in mid-69 and were gone by ’71. A golden time immortalised on screen, we can all be young again while drinking at this fountain of youth.

Steve McQueen was the coolest guy on the planet when he started making the film, he had just enjoyed huge success with Bullitt and here were the coolest cars, at the coolest race. What could go wrong?

Well that answer to that question judged in the long term, is not much. That is why the original book about the film sold so well, that and the fact it is a well researched and written account.

Les Vingt-Quatre Heures du Mans tends to attract obsessives and Hollywood’s version of the race receives similar attention, hence the raison d’être of this photo book. It is produced to the usual high standard associated with any Michael Keyser project. For those interested in the movie and its background, these images will add to their understanding and enjoyment of the film.

The majority of the shots were taken by the great photographer, Nigel Snowden. I was lucky enough to meet him in my early days trackside. He and his charming wife, Diana, were always very gracious to a complete no hoper like myself. The monochrome images have a depth to them that reflects a master at work. Despite what many of the up and comers of today imagine, there is nothing new in the world of photography. Composition, the ability to see the finished product before firing the shutter, is as important today as it always has been. The images in this book could act as a guide to many, of course they are too talented to see that.

The whole story of the process of making the film is covered from the planned mayhem inflicted on two Lola T70s, disguised as a 917 and a 512.

Art imitates life and as with real racing back then, there were unplanned accidents, this one costing David Piper his leg.

Perhaps the question is why should you buy this book ? That almost answers itself. Anyone who has more than a passing interest in the McQueen epic will enjoy this book, it has integrity and is a faithful depiction of the greatest movie ever made, or likely to be made, about the sport.

And who can resist this iconic, very British gesture, The Longbowman Salute? We have been winding up the French with it since Agincourt. Clearly Steve was one of us………………..

Those who might like to purchase a copy of this book can do so HERE

Apologies for the poor quality of the scans,

John Brooks, January 2012

Poster Boys

Porsche are not only famous for their excellent cars and ferocious racing teams, they have over the years issued a series of posters that reflect the self image of this premium brand. The message comes across as understated “cool”; it must have been a dream to have Steve McQueen as the poster boy for Porsche.

Enjoy the trip down memory lane.

John Brooks, November, 2011