Le Mans, released in 1971, remains one of the greatest motor racing films of all time. Starring Steve McQueen as American race car driver Michael Delaney, and filmed entirely on location during the 1970 renewal of the 24 Hours of Le Mans race, and at the track until November that year, the film has become legendary for its realistic depiction of the racing of that era, an iconic performance by McQueen and the magnificent Porsche motor cars presented on-screen.
In the film, Delaney (McQueen) competes for the Porsche team at Le Mans, and in perhaps the movie’s most poignant moment, he is seen driving a Porsche 911S when he visits the scene of fatal racing accident that took place the year before.
Steve McQueen on the race track of Le Mans, 14 June 1970. Photograph: akg-images / Jacques Violet
In this scene, the opening sequence of the film, McQueen drives around the city of Le Mans in the early hours of the morning, passing notable sites including the Cathédrale St. Julien. He sees the widow of a former Ferrari racing competitor (played by Elga Andersen) buying flowers at a flower stand, and then drives to the sight of the crash, in which he too was injured. The sequence, which contains no dialogue, cemented the Porsche 911 as one of cinema’s all-time classic cars. Indeed, after wrapping production in December 1970, McQueen was to keep the car and transfer it to the US.
1971 Porsche 911 T Coupé. Chassis No. 911/1100804. No matricule: 375 16 478. Estimate: €250,000-350,000. To be offered in The Exceptional Sale on 4 November 2015 at Christie’s in Paris
The 1971 Porsche 911T offered in the first Exceptional Sale in Paris is one of a group of Porsche 911 cars used during the production of Le Mans. It was bought by CBS Solar Film Studios, McQueen’s personal production company, directly from the garages of legendary Swiss racing driver Jo ‘Seppi’ Siffert. Twice a winner at Le Mans and the man who drove the race car of the main character after McQueen had been prohibited from doing so due to insurance reasons, Siffert not only provided the Porsche 908 and 917 seen on the race track, but also a fleet of street sports cars (including four Porsche 911 vehicles and one Porsche 914), which were used by the crew for the shoot.
A trailer for McQueen: The Man & Le Mans. The UK premiere of the film is at the BFI London Film Festival on 14 October
A new feature-length documentary, McQueen: The Man & Le Mans, which is released in November, tells the story of the making of Le Mans. Using behind the scenes footage, unused rushes from the original film, which were found under a sound-stage in February 2014, and private tape recordings of McQueen sharing his thoughts on the filmmaking process, the documentary charts the tortuous shoot and examines the power and passions of an actor who was the biggest star in Hollywood at the time.
The year before the film: Steve McQueen at the 24 Hours of Le Mans race, 13 June 1969 © Alain Loison/Apis/Sygma/Corbis
Before heading to Le Mans in the summer of 1970, McQueen, who had been racing competitively for a decade, had finished second at the 12 Hours of Sebring race with his driving partner Peter Revson. According to The Hollywood Reporter’s review of the new documentary, at the huge temporary village set up by Solar in Le Mans, ‘many cars were brought in and McQueen was ensconced in a lavish chateau where he reportedly received multiple female visitors every day.’
‘We had everything,’ confirms one participant [in the film], ‘except a script.’ A script, it seems, was not the only thing the film lacked. Diana Rigg, Maud Adams and the model Twiggy had all been considered to play McQueen’s love interest in Le Mans but production had already begun without a leading lady having been found. It was only when the blonde, blue-eyed Elga Andersen was flown to the Le Mans set that McQueen gave his seal of approval. The German actress, who had starred in over a dozen French films of the 1950s and 60s, was living in Paris, in the former studio of Henri Matisse, at the time.
McQueen and Elga Andersen had an affair in Le Mans, which was well documented by tabloid newspapers. After returning from a summer break in filming, McQueen’s production company promised the Porsche 911 offered in the Exceptional Sale in Paris to the actress. The final invoice for the car, which also came from Siffert’s garage in Switzerland, dates this promise from CBS Solar to October 1970, which means Andersen was given a current 911T, with the specifications of the 1971 model year.
Andersen would later marry the owner of the department store Saks 5th Avenue, Peter Gimpel. When she died in 1994, the car was left to her best friend, who subsequently sold it to the current owner. The vehicle has been serviced by the same Swiss garage since 2000, and comes accompanied by a scan of the original contract from Jo Siffert to Elga Andersen, and a copy of a photograph of Steve McQueen’s son, Chad, in front of the car.
The car, which shows 46,350km on the clock, is in exquisite condition, with original body paint and minimal repairs at the front and front sides. All chrome parts and the rare full-leather interior are complete. The well maintained appearance is completed by the original Porsche emblem on the front hood.
For more features, interviews and videos, visit Christie’s Daily