McQueen's Machine

Steve McQueen defined cool, as did his cars—just look at this 275 GTB/4.

August 28, 2014
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Knowledgeable Ferrari enthusiasts will immediately spot this car’s unusual rearview mirror, and may remark upon the not-quite-right red hue, but otherwise s/n 10621 is a standard-issue 275 GTB/4. Which is another way of saying it’s a seriously cool machine.

Introduced at the 1966 Paris Auto Show, the GTB/4 was the ultimate 275, having benefitted from all of the evolutionary improvements bestowed upon the platform to that point, including more aerodynamic “long nose” bodywork and a torque tube running between front-mounted engine and rear-mounted transaxle. But what defined the new model was the “/4” moniker: The 275’s original 3.3-liter SOHC Colombo V12 was redesigned with dual-overhead camshafts and dry-sump oiling, raising horsepower from 280 to 300 at 8,000 rpm.

Actually, s/n 10621 has one additional attribute that makes it a bit more exciting than most other four-cams: Its first owner was an actor and racer named Steve McQueen.

DURING HIS ALL-TOO-SHORT LIFE, McQueen owned four Ferraris: a 250 GT Lusso, a 275 GTS, a 275 GTS/4 NART Spyder (note: this was not the car that appeared with the actor in The Thomas Crown Affair) and the 275 GTB/4 featured here. Weirdly enough, the GTB/4 replaced the NART Spyder in McQueen’s garage.

As the story goes, McQueen hadn’t had his convertible for long before it was rear-ended by a delivery truck in Malibu—reportedly because the truck’s driver was bikini-watching and plowed into a hapless McQueen, who was stopped at a traffic light. The one-of-ten NART Spyder was nearly totaled, and since there were no repair panels in the United States at the time, it was clear that, if the car was to be fixed, the repair job would be long and involved. McQueen had no taste for waiting, so returned to his then dealership of choice, Hollywood Sports Cars, and purchased s/n 10621.

From the factory, the GTB/4 was painted in Nocciola Metallizzato, a warm, medium gold-brown metallic. (This was a much different hue than the Marrone Metallizzato of his famous Lusso, which appeared in issue #72’s “Color Bind.”) According to San Fernando Valley, California paint and body wizard Lee Brown, McQueen didn’t like the Nocciola at all, so the actor tasked Brown with “coming up with something better.”

What? McQueen bought a brand-new Ferrari and had it repainted before he took delivery? Yup—and this was not the first time. The aforementioned NART Spyder was originally painted a medium metallic blue, a shade also not to McQueen’s taste. Brown had mixed up a variety of blue hues, finally hitting on one that McQueen liked, and sprayed it on the car not long before its tragic bodywork mishap in Malibu.

Also from Issue 137

  • Tailor Made F12 Berlinetta
  • 328 vs F355 comparison test
  • 375 MM-powered hydroplane
  • Vintage Ferrari prices continue to climb
  • F1: Ferrari scores its second 2014 podium
  • FORZA Tifosi Challenge: Road America
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