Monday, April 12, 2010
Steve McQueen and the Jaguar XKSS
KDH has left a new comment on your post "The subject was the Ferrari GTO...":
"Stephen, Could you elaborate a bit on your 'crossing paths' with Steve McQueen and his Jaguar XKSS...I'm a big fan of those iconic D-type siblings and orphans of the factory fire.
My second encounter with Steve McQueen happened at dusk in Brentwood on Sunset Boulevard--as much a Hollywood icon as the actor himself. I was driving eastbound away from the beach in my Ferrari GTO and found myself stopped at a red light at North Kenter Avenue. As the sun was below the horizon--magic hour in film production terms--I had illuminated the peripheral lights which included two orange marker lights on the roof, two white lights on the passenger door (used to make the racing number visible after dark) and two similar lights on the trunk lid. It made the GTO even more noticeable than it already was. Looking ahead, I saw an unusual but familiar shape approaching from the opposite direction. It looked to me like a Jaguar XKSS.
As the British Racing Green sports car pulled to a stop across the intersection, a couple of thoughts went through my mind. First, it was very rare to see an XKSS anywhere but in an enthusiast's car magazine as not many 'street versions' of the famous racing D-type ever left the factory owing to a catastrophic fire that nearly wiped out the company. Second, the only XKSS I'd ever heard about belonged to...
I stopped staring at the Jaguar and focused on the driver sitting behind the right-hand-drive steering wheel. Sure enough, the face staring back at me was that of Steve McQueen. We were both gawking at the other's car!
The red light turned to green but neither of us moved. Then, McQueen pulled forward and I assumed he was going on his way, but he only pulled forward to get a better look at the GTO and stopped again right in the middle of the intersection. I stayed put and studied the details of the XKSS not knowing when I'd ever see one again. Traffic was backed up behind us in both directions and neither of us cared. Strangely, no one sounded their horn, as if they all understood what was happening.
Finally, McQueen flashed that irrepressible smile of his that, in part, made him the star that he was. I smiled back and he waved, revved the Jag's DOHC straight-six and took off like a shot. I waved back and took the GTO to 7500 rpm in first gear in pure exhilaration at what had just transpired.
I've never again enjoyed stopping at a red light as much as I did that evening!
As a post script, I did see that very same XKSS again. It was parked a few feet away from me while I was being interviewed by Hillary Heath at the Petersen Automotive Museum for the Discovery Channel's HD Theater. The subject of the interview? The Ferrari GTO that had caught McQueen's attention so long ago.