Steve McQueen’s 1971 Husqvarna 400 Cross
This Husqvarna 400 Cross was purchased by Steve McQueen on August 26, 1971. It would remain one of his favorite bikes for off-road riding, and he would keep it in his collection for the rest of his life.
Although best known as a movie star, McQueen was a successful motorcycle and automobile racer. He competed on the official United States team in the 1964 International Six Days Trial (ISDT), one of the toughest off-road motorcycle races in the world, and he often competed in California under the Harvey Mushman’s name.
Quick Facts – McQueen’s Husqvarna 400 Cross
- The Husqvarna 400 Cross was released in 1969 as a replacement for the Husqvarna 360. It featured a number of improvements over its predecessor, including an all-welded frame and a more powerful 400cc two-stroke engine.
- This new model was an immediate success, Bengt Aberg rode his 400 Cross to win the 1969 and 1970 500cc World Championships. brutal races in the Southern California desert.
- For many, the Husqvarna represents the shift that occurred in the late 1960s between the heavier four-strokes and the lighter two-strokes that would come to dominate off-road racing.
- The Husqvarna 400 Cross you see here was bought by Steve McQueen in 1971, he kept it for the rest of his life and apparently it was his favorite. It was one of the vehicles sold at its auction in 1984 and has been preserved in its original condition ever since.
The Husqvarna 400 Cross
The Husqvarna 400 Cross was unveiled in 1969 as an all-new replacement for the outgoing Husqvarna 360 model. There was a lot of pressure on the 400 Cross as it was set to reclaim Husqvarna’s position as the world’s leading motocross manufacturer.
There’s no denying that the Scandinavians have some weird magic when it comes to vehicle design, and luckily for Husqvarna that magic came to fruition with the 400 Cross.
From 1969 she won two consecutive 500cc World Championships with Swedish rider Bengt Aberg in the saddle. Malcolm Smith and Gunnar Nilsson took turns riding their modified 400 Cross and winning the 1971 Baja 1000, and later that year Mark Blackwell rode one to become America’s first open-class national motocross champion. .
The 400 Cross is powered by an air-cooled 396cc single-cylinder two-stroke engine producing 40bhp in standard tuning. Power is sent to a large rear sprocket through a heavy-duty four-speed transmission.
The engine is cradled in a tubular steel frame that is fitted with hydraulic forks up front and twin shocks in the rear. There’s an amply padded seat to help soak up the bumps and perhaps most importantly, the bike has that signature Husqvarna red, white and chrome fuel tank.
The overall design of the bike was relatively standard for its time, although the whole is greater than the sum of the parts, as evidenced by the long list of victories in premier competitions.
Surviving examples of the Husqvarna 400 Cross are now highly collectable, and there are specialists who can restore them to exact factory specifications. They remain popular today as vintage off-road vehicles.
Steve McQueen’s Husqvarna 400 Cross shown here
Of all the Husqvarna 400 Cross examples that still exist, the two most popular (and most valuable) types seem to be those that won vintage motocross and enduro competitions, and those that belonged to Steve McQueen.
It is believed that McQueen owned at least two examples of this model, possibly three. One of these is now arguably the most famous Husqvarna of the era, the bike he rode in the 1971 documentary film On Any Sunday and which appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated riding.
The Husky you see here is his other bike, and according to some it was a favorite “regular rider”. McQueen purchased the bike in 1971 through his film production company Solar Productions. A number of its vehicles have been purchased through the company over the years.
This bike would eventually be sold in 1984 at the Steve McQueen Estate auction, it has passed through a very limited number of hands since that time, and fortunately has been kept in the same condition it was last used by McQueen.
It is now due to go to auction with Bonhams on August 19 in California with a guide price of US$130,000 to US$180,000. If you want to know more about it or register to bid, you can visit the listing here.
Images courtesy of Bonhams
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