Steve McQueen's Ferrari 275GTB/4

| 10 Mar 2014

When C&SC was invited by 1982 Le Mans winner Vern Schuppan to drive his ex-Steve McQueen 275GTB/4 at Ferrari's Fiorano test-track, we leaped at the chance. With far too many great pictures to squeeze into the magazine, we are delighted to share with you some of the ones we were forced  to leave out. Pictures: Julian Mackie/C&SC.

Steve McQueen bought this car in 1968 to replace the NART Spyder that was rear-ended on its maiden voyage. It originally came in Nocciola (a metallic brown), but the Hollywood icon hated the colour so, before he had even seen the car, he had it resprayed by Lee Brown. The colour chose was inspired by the NART Spyder that appeared in The Thomas Crown Affair (which McQueen was working on in 1967) and was dubbed Chianti Red.

After McQueen's ownership the Ferrari passed to another Hollywood legend, Zorro himself Guy Williams who bought it in 1971 and kept it 1976.

The 275GTB/4 was supplied on Campagnolo alloy wheels, Ferrari having stopped supplying the model with Borrani wires because of concerns over their strength. McQueen swapped this car on to the Borranis from his NART, but reverted to Campagnolos after repeatedly breaking spokes

Fiorano was built in 1972 in Enzo Ferrari's back garden and the 1.86-mile circuit was used for F1 testing until restrictions were introduced. It is a very tight circuit that crosses itself a couple of times and tests cars to the limit.

As the name suggests the 275GTB/4 is powered by the smoother, four-cam version of Ferrari's 3285cc V12 engine that already civilised the 250 unit. It is fed by six Weber carburettors.

The 275GTB was the first Ferrari to drive the rear wheels through a transaxle rather than a conventional gearbox and the five-speeder is a delight to use, while it also boasted Ferrari's first all-round independent suspension.

Performance from the car is best described as 'vivid', with its 300bhp at 8000rpm propelling it to 60mph in 5.5seconds and on to a maximum speed of 163mph, impressive figures when it came out in 1966, two years after the two-cam 275.

The big change in this car's life came in 1980 after it was bought for $32,000 by trucking magnate Robert Panella. The new owner commissioned one of the high-end Straman NART Spyder conversions that set him back $10,000 and cost the car its roof.

Aussie yachtsman and historic racer Peter Harburg bought the car in 2010 and sent it to Ferrari's specialist Classiche department for assessment. While it was there Harburg sold out to Vern Schuppan who commissioned Ferrari to return the car the state in which left the factory for $88,000.