RM Auctions sale in Monterey, California, held last week, will be remembered as the place where the record for the most expensive American car ever sold at auction has been achieved. Steve McQueen’s Ford GT40, used in the 1971 racing classic, Le Mans was sold at auction for $11 million – making it the most paid for an American car on the auction block. The buyer remains anonymous.
The 1968 powder blue Ford GT40/Mirage Lightweight Racing Car, P/1074, finished in the Gulf team colors, had been was uniquely outfitted for McQueen’s 1971 movie about the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The Hollywood high-speed driving star chose the GT40 as a camera car, cutting off its roof and installing a seat for a cameraman outside the car, to film while hurtling down the track at 150 miles per hour.
The GT40 had an impressive history even before McQueen set his sights on the car. Henry Ford II commissioned it hoping that could win the grueling 24 Hours of the Le Mans endurance race, after failing to buy Ferrari. The GT40 exceeded expectations, coming in first four consecutive times, from 1966-9. It was owned by a series of collectors, and restored to its original condition in the 1970s and 80s.
The previous record holder for the most ever paid American car at auction was a 1931 Duesenberg roadster called the Whittell Coupe, which had a sale price of $10.34 million at a 2010 auction.