The Friends of Steve McQueen: Car and Motorcycle Show
What makes an icon?
Steve McQueen is probably the biggest name in Car Culture. He’s the guy that deep down, everyone wants to be. But why is that? There’s no shortage of celebrities that enjoy exceptional and cool public images, but McQueen stands alone. The truth is that most of them lack the one critical icon component- authenticity. And McQueen, the rebel, the delinquent, the Marine, the movie star and the racing driver, was the real deal - one hundred percent authentic.
The annual Friends of Steve McQueen car and motorcycle show both pays homage to one of the biggest icons in the motorhead landscape and generates much-needed revenue for an institution that played a big part in his success.
He was a troubled kid dragging a sketchy, chaotic childhood behind him. Judged as an at-risk youth, he was sent to a kind of reform school called the Boys Republic. Their motto is, “Nothing Without Labor.” The future King of Cool learned that no progress is ever made without first working on the task at hand. And the Boys Republic made sure that there were plenty of tasks at hand.
The Boys Republic’s philosophy holds the belief that youth, no matter how challenged, can overcome obstacles and disadvantages and achieve a successful and meaningful life. Students handle almost all support roles for the show and even hand-build the trophies that are awarded every year.
The Mustang vs. Charger San Francisco car chase in Bullitt was the first big cinema extended chase scene. Lt. Frank Bullitt's (played by Steve McQueen) dark green fastback Mustang, is probably the most recognized screen car ever, and the meticulously built ’67 and ’68 clones are always out in force. The movie's ten minutes of mayhem tearing through the City By The Bay inspired a whole sub-genre of movies that flourished in the seventies and paved the way for mega-blockbusters like The Fast And The Furious franchise that continue to generate huge box office numbers for Hollywood.
McQueen was a collector of all things mechanical. Expensive sports cars had to share garage space with rickety antiques barely able to hit modern road speeds. He loved it all, especially vintage motorcycles and early steam and electric engines. He would eventually buy an aircraft hangar in Santa Paula to house his collection of motor-driven machinery, spending every spare hour tinkering, riding and driving.
Porsches were a big part of the authenticity that McQueen earned. At the Sebring 12hr Endurance in 1970, he and Peter Revson, driving McQueen’s private-entry Porsche 908 came within minutes of defeating the factory Porsche 917s and Ferrari 512s. Only the last-minute banzai sprint of Mario Andretti would snatch victory from the privateers. It remains the most exciting Sebring event ever contested. The actor would later take a crew to LeMans and film that classic racing movie.
As a global superstar, McQueen never forgot his time at the Boys Republic. The discipline and focus taught to him as a student there was a critical component in his later success. Throughout his busy film career, he was a frequent visitor to the campus and an inspiration to everyone there. A generous patron, he used his star power to leverage friends, associates and movie studios to provide for the needs of the school. His son, Chad, continues the family commitment to Boys Academy as co-chair of the event and to act as a direct link to the institution’s most famous graduate. The King of Cool would be pleased.
Enjoy the gallery and learn more about Boys Republic and their work with at-risk youth at boysrepublic.org.
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