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Steve McQueen - Lost Motorcycle Discovered
Steve McQueen's newly discovered 1970 Husqvarna 400 Cross Steve McQueen's 1970 Husqvarna 400 Cross
Photo by Matt Stone
When Husqvarna enthusiast and specialist Rob Phillips picked up this 1970 Husqvarna 400 Cross for $1500.00 in February 2008 it was "just another bike" that he planned on restoring, but pretty soon, following the bike's paper trail, including original sales documents and the Manufacturer's Statement of Origin, he discovered that he had in fact purchased a bike once owned by Hollywood legend and racing enthusiast Steve McQueen.

McQueen, best known for films such as The Magnificent Seven, The Great Escape, Bullitt, Le Mans, The Getaway and The Towering Inferno was the higest paid actor in the world in the early 1970's. He was also an accomplished car and motorcycle racer, having been offered a professional motor car racing contract with the British Motoring Corporation, placing second in the 1970 12 Hours of Sebring race behind Mario Andretti, and representing the US in the prestigious 6 Day International Motorcycle Trials in 1964 in East Germany.
Rob made the discovery whilst visiting friend Don Ince. Don, also a bike specialist, enthusiast and collector, had in his collection all the accounting books of Edison Dye. Dye, considered by many to be the father of motocross in the United States, was single handedly responsible for importing almost every Husqvarna ever brought into the United States. Searching through the Dye records, Don produced the original invoice and Manufacturer's Statement of Origin belonging to Rob's new bike. The invoice, dated February 9, 1970, was made out to Solar Productions (McQueen's movie production company), and the MSO was a perfect match with Rob's bike, noting the exact same Frame number and Engine number. In addition to these documents was a memo signed by Edison Dye, stating that the bike was to be held for Solar Productions, and was to be picked up by Steve himself, or Steve's friend and associate Don Mitchell.
Tracing further through the paperwork (which included the original Husqvarna factory invoice) the pair discovered that the bike was purchased by it's second owner from a local California dealer in May 1972, who raced it for a few years in District 37 (the same district Steve raced in). The Husky then sat in the second owners backyard until Jan 2008. The bike was then sold twice that January, and finally found it's was into Rob's hands in Feb 2008, almost 38 years to the day Steve bought it.

Whilst it is not yet proven that Steve personally raced this bike, there is good evidence that it may be the #98 Husky which he is seen riding in the Lake Elsinore Grand Prix in the 1971 cult motorbike racing documentary On Any Sunday. 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.

Matt Stone, editor of MotorTrend and MotorTrend Classic magazines, and author of the bestselling McQueen's Machines: The Cars and Bikes of a Hollywood Icon, has personally inspected the documents, and ridden and photographed the bike, and believes that the Phillips Husky is an authentic 'McQueen Machine.'

Since purchasing the Husky, Rob has gently restored it, doing only what was necessary to get it running again (having the internal parts of the engine and transmission rebuilt) and keeping it original.
The MSO (engine number blurred for privacy)
Manufacturer's Statement of Origin
One final note:

When the engine was removed Rob's repair team found tucked away in the cavity between the engine and frame an "uncirculated" Lincoln head penny in a small round plastic case not much large than the penny. Food for thought - could it have been placed there by Steve for luck? The penny was dated 1960, the same year Steve's son Chad was born...

The bike is now on display at the San Diego Auto Museum, which is located at 2080 Pan America Plaza 92101.

Rob Phillips is CEO of Advanced Racing Technologies. He is a motorcycle collector and
restorer specializing in Husqvarna motorcycles, and is the Founder of Huskyrestoration.com

Don Ince is a motorcycle enthusiast and runs VintageViking.com
Memo from Edison Dye
Memo from Edison Dye