The ex-Steve McQueen
1970 Husqvarna 400 Cross
Frame no. MH-1341
Engine no. 401124
Husqvarna is surely one of the most famous and respected off-road brands in history. With 14 World Motocross championships, 24 World Enduro titles and 11 Baja 1000 victories to its name, Husky's reputation is beyond reproach.
In the late 1960s most dirtbikes were simply modified versions of bulky British and American four-stroke streetbikes. While powerful, these machines were heavy and cumbersome and only agile in the most talented of hands.
Long before the emergence of the Japanese, it was the continental Europeans who were at the forefront of motocross development. The Swedes, Spaniards and Czechs, in particular, were creating ever lighter, more powerful and nimbler machines.
Soon Sweden-based Husqvarna - a name unheard of across the Atlantic at the time - introduced a series of two-stroke machines, first with a 360cc and then a 400cc featuring a breathtakingly lusty single-cylinder engine suspended in a lightweight steel frame. As this was before plastics, the bike came fitted with alloy fenders front and rear, and a painted steel gas tank with the brand's signature chromed panels, intended prevent a rider's knees from marring the paint. This beautiful, comparatively airy, big-bore motocrosser combined fearsome power, superior handling and rakish good looks - a winning combination that quickly made headlines.
American Edison Dye took notice and started importing Husqvarna's line into the Unites States. It wasn't long before the Husky's attributes became renowned among the relatively small but growing fraternity of off-road motorcyclists in America. Shortly after the Scandinavian bike's stateside debut, a Husky was shown carrying a talented young racer by the name of Malcolm Smith as he flew across a perfect California beach in the seminal movie On Any Sunday. Then there was Steve McQueen on the cover of Sports Illustrated, bare-chested, bronzed and muscled, as he charged his Husky through the Mojave desert. Thus began the ascendancy of Husqvarna and the popular explosion of the sport of motocross.
This particular example, MH-1341, is one of the first 400 Cross models imported into the U.S. It was purchased in February of 1970 by Steve McQueen, like most of McQueen's vehicles, through his production company Solar Productions. Such was the impression that this dirtbike made that he reportedly went on to own four of the same model so, according to son Chad, he would always have one to ride while the others underwent maintenance not a minor endorsement when one considers that as Hollywood's highest paid actor at the time, this accomplished motorcyclist could have owned any machine of his choice.
As a racing bike, MH-1341 features a compression-release lever, modified cylinder head and modified exhaust pipe - all period-correct modifications attesting to the competition intentions of its owner.
Supported by and offered with a comprehensive amount of original documentation proving the bike's origin and ownership, MH-1341 is truly an impressive piece of history.
Included is the original invoice to Dye from Husqvarna of Sweden, the official Manufacturer Statement of Origin, the invoice to Solar Productions from Dye, the transfer of ownership card from the California Department of Motor Vehicles naming Solar Productions, personal memos and business correspondence about the bike from Dye, Solar Productions and others, in addition to McQueen's entry form for the 1970 Saddleback 500 Senior Race. Perhaps most interesting, however, is what is thought to be McQueen's "lucky penny" - an uncirculated 1960 1¢ coin (1960 being the birth year of son Chad) that was found inside a clear plastic case tucked away in the cavity of the motorcycle between the engine and frame. These items and more are to be conveyed to the new owner of MH-1341.
Since being acquired by the vendor in 2008, MH-1341 has been gently reconditioned, only doing what was necessary to get it in running order (i.e., a rebuilt transmission) and has largely been on static display, including at the San Diego Auto Museum.
As the legend of the King of Cool continues to grow, this motorcycle not only has the pedigree but also the provenance to make it one of the most unique and desirable motorcycles in the world.
- Please note that the title for this motorcycle is in transit