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ADV NewsSteve McQueen’s First Husqvarna Fetches $204,000 At Auction

Steve McQueen’s First Husqvarna Fetches $204,000 At Auction

Ridden by a Swedish champ, the bike kindled McQueen’s love of Huskies.

Published on 08.26.2021

The year is 1968. Acting legend and motorcycle enthusiast Steve McQueen is visiting a motocross race series in Southern California to watch Swedish racer Bengt Aberg tear up the track, hoping to catch a little of the ace’s mojo and become a faster rider himself. McQueen notices the Husqvarna ‘360 Viking’ Aberg is using to slice and dice the competition and decides then and there that it must be the bike, along with the rider of course, allowing Aberg to dominate the field. He buys it on the spot and adds it to his collection of bikes, reputed to be in the neighborhood of 200 machines. Aberg finishes the season on another Husqvarna, and goes on to win the 500cc Motocross World Championships in 1969 and 1970.  

Photo: RM Sotheby’s

Fast forward more than half a century. McQueen, who died in 1980, is long gone. But the Husqvarna once ridden by a Swedish champion is still around, having passed from collector to collector. And the fact that McQueen bought it, rode it and loved it enough to kindle an obsession with the Swedish brand means it is one valuable dirt bike. So valuable, in fact, that it sold for $204,000 at a Sotheby’s auction in Monterey this past August 13th.

Steve McQueen’s First Husqvarna sells
Photo: Stan Evans

It is an iconic Husky dirt bike: yellow number plates, red tank with a polished silver oval, overstuffed seat, silver frame, polished front fender and shock covers, and straight-back exhaust. Perhaps it’s not as famous as the Husqvarnas the King of Cool was riding on the cover of the August, 1971 issue of Sport Illustrated or in the movie On Any Sunday, but historians argue that it’s more important than either because it was McQueen’s first Husky and it started his association with the brand. “It represents a seminal moment in motorsports history and pop culture at large,” states the Robb Report. Prior to setting eyes on the bike, McQueen was pretty much a Triumph guy. He rode a Triumph TR6 in the famous chase scene from the 1963 classic The Great Escape

Photo: RM Sotheby’s

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The Viking was a dominating bike back in the day that ran as good as it looks. At just 215 pounds, it’s light and lean. That’s still a respectable weight for a dirt bike today. Earlier big-bore Husqvarna two-strokes had overheating issues, but the problem had been largely solved by 1968, and the Husky put out 37 horsepower. These weren’t hand-built specials for the track either; racers ran them pretty much as they bought them off the showroom floor.

McQueen’s Viking 360 underwent a 14-month, concours-quality restoration in 2014 that addressed both mechanical and cosmetic issues. The bike is now a pristine vintage sample and in full running condition. It’s all original, from the 360cc engine, to the four-speed gearbox, to the 32mm Bing carb. The only material thing restorers changed was substituting the original point-type ignition with an electronic unit for ease of starting and simplified maintenance. Points are a pain, but don’t worry; the original set went with the sale should the new owner want to go 100-percent era correct. 

The sale also included documentation showing Solar Productions, McQueen’s production company, as the buyer, and a Utah title from the seller (the owner of Blacksmith Garage), who had this to say about the bike: “Steve McQueen owned quite a few bikes and it seems that from time to time one will come up for sale. However, there are very few, if any, of his bikes that have the importance, paperwork and provenance and have had such a profound effect upon pop culture than MF-1987 (the 1968 360 Viking’s frame number). MF-1987 is a Steve McQueen collector’s dream.”

Author: Bob Whitby

Bob has been riding motorcycles since age 19 and working as a journalist since he was 24, which was a long time ago, let’s put it that way. He quit for the better part of a decade to raise a family, then rediscovered adventure, dual sport and enduro riding in the early 2000s. He lives in Arkansas, America’s best-kept secret when it comes to riding destinations, and travels far and wide in search of dirt roads and trails.

Author: Bob Whitby
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One thought on “Steve McQueen’s First Husqvarna Fetches $204,000 At Auction

  1. Was reading the article about Steve McQueens Husky
    I have a Husky that’s the same looking as Steves and the same age as far as I know
    I bought it a long time ago
    Thought you might be interested

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