Actor Steve McQueen was a megastar in the 1960s and 70s and was known then – and now – as the “King of Cool” for good reason. Besides his measured and mellow acting chops, he often did his own vehiclular stunt work. While other leading men would turn over the keys to stunt drivers and riders in their films, it was more than likely that McQueen would be at the controls of the car or motorcycle being wrung out in movies like Bullit, The Great Escape, Le Mans and of course, the seminal motorcycle documentary On Any Sunday (which he helped produce and rode a Husky 400).
A consummate wheelman, McQueen also raced cars and motorcycles, often sidestepping fandom, studio scrutiny and special treatment by entering under a “Harvey Mushman” alias. The former U.S. Marine just wanted to drive fast cars and race motorcycles, and after he saw racer Bengt Åberg tearing up the competition at a series of races on a 1968 Husqvarna Viking 360 two-stroke, well, he had to have it. No, not just a Viking 360, he wanted the actual racebike Åberg was on. Exercising a bit of that star power, he reeled it in, right in the midst of it being used for racing. Åberg transitioned to another bike and kept up his winning ways. It was to be McQueen’s first Husky, but not the last by a longshot, and that same star power would help boost both the then Sweden-based brand along with the sport of motorcycle racing in general.
McQueen passed away in 1980, far too young at just 50 years old, but not before appearing on the cover of a legendary 1971 issue of Sports Illustrated, wheelieing a red Husqvarna into the camera while helmeted – and bare-chested. He left behind an extensive collection of cars and motorcycles, and over time, the Viking 360 racer changed hands until it recently popped up at Sotheby’s auction house, restored to as-new condition and ready to ride again. Even today, the barking Viking 360 looks intimidating and ready to pillage the competition at any local AHRMA event.
It was estimated that McQueen’s Viking 360 would top $100,000 at auction and it did – easily – ringing in at $204,000 when the hammer finally dropped. Who bought it? So far, we don’t know. We do know it’s a runner, however, as the website Petrolicious profiled the bike in one of their typically excellent and engaging videos, seen below. The Sotheby’s auction page also features over two dozen professional photos of the bike.
It’s not a stretch to imagine that if McQueen was still with us, he’d have a long list of race wins, perhaps multiple race teams and maybe, even at age 91, might be kicking around on a Husky 701, showing up at random Dairy Queens for a burger and some soft serve. Can I get a name for this order, sir?
Check out more Viking 360 history and tech details in Zac’s original post about the bike going to auction.