Bonhams & Butterfields’s annual vintage motorbike, custom car and sports-racing collectibles auction at LA’s Petersen Auto Museum—now referred to as the “Classic California” sale—features a wonderful assemblage of desirable early Steve McQueen memorabilia from the collection of his first wife, as well as property from noted private and institutional collections culled from across the globe. The eagerly anticipated auction takes place in Los Angeles on Saturday, October 25.
To Steve McQueen fans and motorbike and car collectors, the Bonhams & Butterfields Fall sale is a must-attend event. Each of the last three annual auctions has featured select McQueen-owned and raced motorbikes, cars and collectibles – and each multi-million dollar sale has set world auction records and generated international interest. The Saturday afternoon auction is the traditional kick-off for the Love Ride, the world’s largest one-day motorcycle charity fundraiser, celebrating its 25th year on Sunday, October 26th, 2008—part of California Bike Week.
For 2008, bidders will vie for Steve McQueen’s first racing trophy (an engraved tankard expected to bring $2,000 to $4,000) and other early racing awards. The poster noting McQueen being honored by the Porsche Club of America could bring as much as $2,000, and several firearms used by the inveterate hunter should attract interest. Original signed contracts and documents for “Bullitt” (1968), “Papillion” (1973) and other early McQueen movies and productions will be offered along with signed letters and notes written to the McQueens by their famous friends – from Barbra Streisand and Sammy Davis Jr., racing legend Sir Stirling Moss, U.S. President Lyndon Johnson, and fellow thespians Paul Newman, Janet Leigh, Debbie Reynolds and Rock Hudson, to name just a few.
McQueen’s Buddha figure gold cufflinks were a gift from the legendary Bob Hope (est. $1,000/2,000) and never-before seen photographs depict the McQueens poolside, at home and on location. The actor’s Chinese visa, which displays his passport-sized photo and signature, was carried by McQueen while he filmed Sand Pebbles in 1965 (est. $2,000/4,000). Additional lots include personal and household items, some of which were featured in select McQueen films.
These desirable Steve McQueen items stem from the collection of Neile McQueen Toffel (known on stage as Neile Adams), McQueen’s first wife. Ms. Adams, a talented and sought after Broadway star, met the man who’d become “The King of Cool” while she appeared on Broadway in “The Pajama Game” in 1956. McQueen was acting on Broadway too and the couple quickly fell in love and wed on November 2, 1956. They relocated to the West Coast and had two children together, a daughter Terry and a son Chad. Adams elected to put her own career on hold (she’d signed with MGM in 1957) to raise their children. The McQueens were one of the “Royal Couples of Hollywood” until their divorce in 1972. In 1986, Adams wrote her best seller My Husband, My Friend (AuthorHouse), re-released in 2006, about her life with Steve McQueen. She has recorded four albums and continues to perform in live cabaret shows in New York City, Los Angeles and Chicago. She’s performing in early October 2008, at The Metropolitan Room at Gotham in New York City with her new show, appropriately titled “Something Cool!”
Other auction highlights on the block for the “Classic California” sale include vintage advertising signage on tin and modern marketing devices designed with neon lighting. Original artworks depicting famous races and marques will attract collectors, and custom cars and vintage motorbikes will be the focus of competitive bidding throughout the auction.
Last year, in its fifth annual offering, Bonhams & Butterfields sold more than $2.2m to collectors and motoring aficionados assembled at the Petersen Automotive Museum, with highlights including McQueen motorbikes, Von Dutch memorabilia, a bike from the collection of Clark Gable and several from the Estate of Charles Bronson, among many others.