This is the Husqvarna 400 Cross Steve McQueen was famously pictured riding shirtless on the August 23, 1971 issue of Sports Illustrated. Along with the wooden case full of Steve’s racing trophies and Husqy accessories also seen in this photo, the bike will be auctioned by Bonhams at the Quail Motorcycle Lodge in May. Most 400 Crosses go four a couple of grand, but it’s expected this one could fetch much more. In 2009, a Triumph desert sled with McQueen provenance sold at Quail for $84,000.
The thing with this bike is that while it was used in this famous magazine cover, it doesn’t appear to be the 1970 model which McQueen reportedly rode, even more famously, in On Any Sunday.
Instead, the On Any Sunday bike appears to be this one (identical if you’re a layperson like me) which, according to McQueenOnline is delineated for these reasons: “Firstly, the On Any Sunday motorcycle that he rode can be seen to have a compression release. The lever can be seen on the left side of the handle bars. The motorcycle cylinder head must be modified, professionally, with a second sparkplug hole to install this release (the Husqvarna factory never supplied this option), and Rob’s bike does have the modified cylinder head. Also, the exhaust pipe on the On Any Sunday bike appears to have a modified tail pipe, and again, Rob’s bike has a modified tail pipe. Lastly, the bike was bought by Solar Productions on February 9, 1970 and the McQueen/Elsinore race featured in the film took place on March 7-8, 1970.”
The complete version of On Any Sunday is embedded above. Skip ahead to the 49-minute mark for the Elsinore Grand Prix segment.
Bonhams says this of the bike it plans to auction:
“The 1971 Husqvarna 400 was originally purchased from the Steve McQueen Estate Sale in 1984 at Harrah’s Auto Collection in Las Vegas, the very locale where Bonhams’ recent motorbike sale was conducted. In addition to its title of former owner, authentic documentation and immortal association, the Swedish-made dirt bike – which son Chad McQueen reportedly said was his father’s favorite off-road brand – comes with a wooden trunk of accessories as owned by McQueen. Other McQueen ephemera will be offered at the sale including numerous racing trophies won by this legend of the silver screen.”
It appears that Husqvarna’s of that period were positively lousy with famous riders. Here, Malcolm Smith can be seen riding his 400 Cross.