Restoring Steve McQueen's Ferrari 275

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IOL mot pic jun12 Steve McQueen Ferrari 1 . The 1968 Ferrari 275 GTB4 originally owned by Steve McQueen, before its roof was cut off.

Right now Ferrari Classiche is working on an iconic car with a strange and compelling history - a 1968 275 GTB4 that was originally built for legendary American star - and car enthusiast - Steve McQueen.

To add to the irony, the brand new coupé was delivered to the King of Cool in San Francisco while he was on set filming the classic that made another car a movie star in its own right - the jade-green Ford Mustang GT featured in Bullitt and now universally revered as Eleanor.

After McQueen's death the 275 was sold and, sometime during the 1980's, was converted into a spider - which, apparently, wasn't unusual because the much rarer convertibles were correspondingly much more valuable.

Today, with classic Ferraris changing hands at prices that rival the Gross Domestic Product of a small country, authenticity is prized above all else, and the current owner has had to come to terms with the fact that, for all its precisely-documented provenance, as it stands the ex-Steve McQueen car doesn't even qualify as a replica of a Ferrari - it's just a fake.

So the car has been returned to the official authentification centre at Maranello, to be restored to exactly the same specification as when it left the factory in 1968 and once again certified as a genuine Ferrari.

RE-ATTAINING A STATE OF GRACE

IOL mot pic jun12 Steve McQueen Ferrari 2 The ex-Steve McQueen Ferrari 275 GTB4 in the workshop at Ferrari Classiche. Note that in this photograph the new roof has yet to be welded in position. .

That has involved building a jig inside and outside the car, and reproducing the roof and buttresses with hand-beaten steel panels. Then the interior trim will have to be restored and the whole car resprayed to its original colour using period cellulose paint.

Given that the magic name McQueen as a previous owner will usually quadruple the price of any car or motorcycle, and that a Ferrari 250 GTO built for Stirling Moss in 1962 recently fetched a world-record $35 million (R295 million!), whatever it costs will be no more than a sound investment.

WHAT WOULD McQUEEN HAVE THOUGHT?

Ferrari has a department dedicated to providing certificates of authenticity that testify to the originality of a car. Set up in 2006, Ferrari Classiche has already dealt with more than 3300 requests for certificates, using the company's archive records and original designs.

But the final irony is that The Man would probably have thought it a total waste of time and money. McQueen firmly believed that cars were for driving, not collecting - it's a matter of record that he often went street racing late at night on Mulholland Drive in his Jaguar XK-SS, one of only 16 ever made and probably the only one with any meaningful mileage on it!

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