Confession: When a Steve McQueen motorcycle goes up for auction, I usually doze through the news. The man had a lot of stuff. Probably a hundred motorcycles. He had countless knives and guns and cars and a couple of airplanes. He filled a hangar in Santa Paula with all of it, and I’m sure he loved and swore at everything he owned. The man had good taste, he owned good things. It makes me like him more, and value his things less, because goddamn if we don’t hear “once owned by Steve McQueen” at an auction every month or so.
His old Triumph desert rat is another deal though. It’s a simple Bonneville, made to work right by AMA Hall of Famer Bud Ekins, painted for hard use by Von Dutch. Nothing fancy, just the right things in the right places, put there by a couple guys that knew what they were doing. A bash guard for the case. Short, artfully bent scrambler pipes. British racing green paint with a couple artfully applied pinstripes. This is the kind of motorcycle I immediately associate with McQueen. The un-fussy kind. The kind he’d race on a weekend under an alias and lean up against a tree when he was done. The kind he’d be himself on.
This Triumph T120 was owned by a collector, and with its $50,000 to $60,000 estimate it’ll probably go to another when it crosses the block at Bonhams in Las Vegas in January. Just for a minute though, while it’s for sale and full of possibility, I’m going to think about what it’d be like to go ripping through a cold desert morning, bashing and crashing my way through McQueen’s old turf. Because... Well, because just look at it: This bike is still begging for a good, hard ride.