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Classic cars and the McQueen Factor

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It is that time in late summer when the card-carrying classic car aficionado’s attention is drawn to the Monterey peninsula in California. Week-long auto event activity culminates with the annual Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. Events preceding Pebble Beach include car shows, cruise-ins, vintage sports car races, seminars, displays, automotive art, tours and a collector car auction in every available space.

How many of the auctions will boast that they are auctioning a car once owned by Steve McQueen? Mike Gulett writes the classic car blog, My Car Quest, and suggests that there is a “McQueen Factor” attached to his cars that show up at many auctions. The McQueen Factor is the ratio of the actual sales price for a former McQueen car to the price the car would have sold for without the McQueen connection. Gulett calculates that it can range from about 3:1 up to more than 10:1.

A good example is a 1963 Ferrari 250 GT valued at close to $500,000 that sold at a recent auction for about $2,500,000. It was owned by Steve McQueen. Celebrity ownership usually adds very little to the value of a car, said McKeel Hagerty, president of Hagerty Insurance, a company that insures collectible cars. "Unless you're talking about Steve McQueen or Elvis," he said. Look for cars from the Jay Leno stable to be valued in a similar manner.

McQueen, who died in 1980 at the age of 50, was famous for his cool, self-effacing on-screen persona. He was also known as a true car lover and a talented driver, a skill he sometimes put to work on screen. But, just how many cars did Steve McQueen actually own? A quick search revealed a list of 73 cars. That helps explain why so many keep appearing on the auction blocks on a regular basis.

At least two McQueen cars will be offered by RM Auctions (www.rmauctions.com) during the Pebble Beach weekend. A 1967 Ferrari 275 GTB that was custom built for McQueen, delivered to him on the set of “Bullitt” and has been faithfully restored by the Ferrari factory is valued at about $3,000,000. It is expected to bring between $9, 000,000 and $12,000,000 million. Also RM has McQueen’s 1970 Chevy El Camino SS with only 26,000 original miles is valued at $40,000 but it carries a McQueen Factor estimate of $100,000 to $150,000.

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