McQueen’s 1946 Indian Chief to Auction America | Motorcycle History

Steve McQueen's 1946 Indian Chief

Steve McQueen's 1946 Indian Chief Photos & History

Auction America has something unique going on the block at its first-ever California auction Aug. 1-3 at Los Angeles Marriot Burbank Airport Hotel - a 1946 Indian Chief owned by the iconic Steve McQueen. Following is a great piece of history on the bike, along with info on the auction.

The 1946 Indian Chief motorcycle headed to Auction America in Los Angeles was owned by Steve McQueen. It is documented by the original McQueen Certificate of Authenticity declaring that it was owned by motion picture star Steve McQueen and purchased at the actor’s estate auction held at The Imperial Palace Hotel and Casino November 24 and 25, 1984 in Las Vegas.

The Chief ran as lot number 622. The document is signed by the actor’s late daughter, Terry and his son, Chad. It also has a copy of the bill of sale from that auction. It is fully documented and in need of nothing. It was completely restored in the early 1990s. A motorcycle with this provenance is a unique collector’s piece, and with consideration that it was owned and ridden by “The King of Cool,” it certainly is an unbelievable investment opportunity.

According to the account in the 2007 book “McQueen’s Machines: The Cars and Bikes of a Hollywood Icon” by Matt Stone, biographer William Nolan conveys that in the fall of 1951 Mr. McQueen had “saved enough money to buy a battered cycle with a sidecar (removed at an unstated time), which he proudly tooled around the Village.

"It was my first bike and I loved it," admitted Steve. "But I was going with a girl who began to hate the cycle – just hated riding in the bumpy sidecar. She told me, 'Either the cycle goes or I go!' Well, there was no contest. She went.” McQueen was working in New York and that battered cycle was this 1946 Indian Chief.

The American Motorcycle Association (AMA) Hall of Fame entry for Steve McQueen delivers the story in a similar manner: “His first motorcycle was a 1946 Indian Chief. In a 1971 interview in Sports Illustrated, McQueen recalls that he was smitten by motorcycling from the start."

The AMA says McQueen states: "I was so proud of that Indian that I rode it over to see a girl I was dating. She said, 'You don’t expect me to ride around with you on that, do you?' I surely did. The girl went and the bike stayed."

Not only is this a great motorcycle, it has many great stories that go with it.

In Hollywood, few celebrities have ever amassed a car, motorcycle and airplane collection as impressive as that of Steve McQueen. Be it a Porsche 356 Speedster, a Jaguar XK-SS, a Ferrari 250 GT Lusso Berlinetta or even a host of Von Dutch customized utility vehicles; his vehicles are not only legendary and highly valuable, but have also been extensively written about.

And now the bike will be on the block at Auction America in Los Angeles Aug. 1-3. This is truly an opportunity not to be missed. It is rare that Auction America is able to offer a machine that has this incomparable Hollywood ownership origin making it that much more an extraordinary proposition.

Steve McQueen, who passed away in 1980, was not only Hollywood’s highest paid actor with such films as “Papillon,” “The Great Escape,” “The Thomas Crown Affair,” “Bullitt,” and of course “Le Mans” to his credit, but he was also a truly talented and highly successful racing driver (on two wheels or four) on sand, road, track and everything in between.

Furthermore, his reputation as the “King of Cool” – the poised anti-hero who frequently performed his own stunts – has made him a pop culture icon of Elvis Presley proportions who not only inspires Hollywood actors to this day but everything from new production cars (consider the “Bullitt Edition” Ford Mustang) and movie remakes (The Thomas Crown Affair) to fashion magazines that use his likeness to tout a turtleneck, desert boots and Persol sunglasses as the quintessentially American “look.”

It is this type of attraction that renders this machine a must for a diverse group of collectors.

About the Auction where McQueen's Indian Chief will be on the block:

  • Who: Auctions America
  • What: First ever Southern California sale by Auctions America
  • Where: Burbank, CA – Los Angeles Marriot Burbank Airport Hotel
  • When: August 1-3, 2013
  • Why:  Auctions America hosts a roster of annual events each year all over the nation. The new sale is part of the national expansion strategy to increase its presence in key markets including Southern California, which is often called the center of America’s car culture.
  • Price: Day Pass - $20, Weekend Pass - $50 (children under 12 free). Bidder registration is $100 and includes admission for two for all days.
  • Catalogue Link:


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