Steve McQueen’s Corvair-Powered Dune Buggy Brings $456K

If there was ever a King of Cool, it’s the late Steve McQueen. And, a dandy little dune buggy from the Golden Era of Hollywood — star of one of McQueen’s most famous films — just sold at Bonhams Auctions for $456,000.

In 1968, Steve McQueen was a big box office draw, usually playing “average Joes.” But he stretched out of his comfort zone a bit and auditioned for the sophisticated, lead character in The Thomas Crown Affair.  Sean Connery was given the first option but declined the role, so McQueen along with Faye Dunaway were enlisted for their megawatt star power to carry the movie. The title character lived at the beach, so the producers, in conjunction with McQueen, had this dune buggy constructed for the film.

According to the seller, “In a period documentary about the making of the film, McQueen told the story of the one-off dune buggy that so clearly demonstrated his love of cars and his driving ability: ‘Crown lives at the beach, and he has a sand dune buggy. I helped ’em design it, so I’m kinda proud of that. It’s set on a Volkswagen chassis, with big ol’ wide weenies, big wide tires on mag wheels, Corvair engine stuffed in the back…It’s very light, you know. It’s pulling about 230 horses, and the vehicle weighs about 1,000 pounds.'”

“Southern California designer/musician/surfer Bruce Meyers wanted something fun, lightweight, and inexpensive for people to take to the beach. No such vehicle existed in the early-1960s, so he created one. Employing a playfully attractive fiberglass body, a purpose-built chassis, and a Volkswagen engine, his Meyers Manx single-handedly launched the dune buggy phenomenon. The original bespoke monocoque chassis and suspension proved too expensive to produce for the low-cost kits that Meyers wanted to sell, so he adapted the design to fit a shortened VW floorpan.”

Although the recipient of a nut and bolt restoration, this old dune buggy retains its provenance with period-correct details that duplicate how the rig looked in the movie.

“The bright-orange/red bodywork was modified in numerous ways, the most obvious being the speedboat inspired wraparound windscreen, plus sunken headlights beneath plastic covers, and the luggage rack on the back.

“Like most Manxes, the Crown buggy employed a Volkswagen floorpan, swing-arm rear suspension, and four-speed VW transaxle. The ‘big ol’ wide weenies’ McQueen mentions are Firestone racing tires (Indy 500 superspeedway rubber, purportedly purchased from race team owner Andy Granatelli) on specially cast American Racing wheels,” the seller continues.

After the film, it changed hands and ended up in Hawaii, where it saw a VW engine swap and heavy use. In its restoration, a Corvair motor was re-installed, and the car was freshened to perfection. Good luck to the new shepherd of this iconic, four-wheel movie prop.

  • 2,683cc Flat 6-Cylinder Engine
  • Four Carburetors, Aluminum Cylinder Heads
  • 140-plus BHP
  • 4-Speed Manual Transaxle
  • Modified Volkswagen Floorpan, Chassis, and Suspension
  • 4-Wheel Hydraulic Drum Brakes
  • Bespoke and highly customized authentic Meyers Manx fiberglass body
  • Custom interior, exhaust, and American Racing Wheels
  • Cast and costumed specifically for its role in this iconic McQueen film

 

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About the author

Dave Cruikshank

Dave Cruikshank is a lifelong car enthusiast and an Editor at Power Automedia. A zealous car geek since birth, he digs lead sleds, curvy fiberglass, kustoms and street rods. He currently owns a '95 Corvette, '76 Cadillac Seville, '99 LS1 Trans Am and big old Ford Van.
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