Photo: Courtesy of RM Auctions
A 1968 Ford GT40 used to film Steve McQueen in the 1971 racing film Le Mans was bought for $11 million at the RM Auctions sale in Monterey on Friday, making it the most expensive American car ever sold at auction.The previous record for an American car sold at auction was $10.34 million, for a 1931 Duesenberg roadster. But even the $11 million spent on McQueen’s ride pales in comparison to the $16.4 million one buyer dropped on a 1957 Ferrari Testa Rossa at Pebble Beach last year, which holds the title of most expensive car sold at auction.
The Hollywood star most associated with high-speed driving, McQueen insisted the race scenes in Le Mans be as authentic as possible. He chose the GT40 as a camera car, cutting off its roof and installing a seat for a cameraman outside the car, to film while hurtling down the track at 150 miles per hour.
Even before McQueen got his hands on the GT40, the car had built up an impressive reputation. After failing to buy Ferrari, Henry Ford II commissioned a car he hoped would win the gruelling 24 Hours of the Le Mans endurance race. The GT40 exceeded expectations, coming in first four consecutive times, from 1966-9.
After the gold and powder blue car was rendered nearly uncontrollable by McQueen’s conversion, it was owned by a series of collectors, and restored to its original condition in the 1970s and 80s. The buyer remains anonymous.
A 1966 GT40 with its own impressive history was also sold this weekend, fetching $4.95 million at a different auction. All told, the five Pebble Beach auctions sold 754 cars for a record-setting $260 million.
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