McQueen’s Last Car: 1979 Pontiac Trans Am

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The world will probably never see another actor the likes of Steve McQueen. Larger than life on the screen, McQueen was an intensely private individual off-screen. It has been 38 years since the Hollywood great succumbed to cancer, but he will always be remembered not just as a great actor, but one of the few actors who not only possessed the willingness, but also the innate ability, to perform the majority of his own driving stunts. While the “Bullitt” Mustangs will always hold a special place in the hearts of movie buffs and car enthusiasts, this 1979 Pontiac Trans Am is probably just as significant, but for an entirely different reason. This car has been confirmed as one of the cars that was used by McQueen in his final film role, as bounty hunter Ralph “Papa” Thorson in the movie “The Hunter.” You will find the full story on the Trans Am here at Hemmings.

For the filming of “The Hunter,” Pontiac supplied Paramount pictures with a total of six Trans Ams from its show car fleet. As part of the plot for the movie, one of these cars was to be blown up during a chase scene between McQueen’s character and a pair of villains. The scene was shot, but producers didn’t feel that the explosion was dramatic enough, or the damage to the car severe enough, so the scene was filmed a second time. This second take saw the Trans Am suffer massive damage, and following filming, the remains of that car were sent to a scrap yard.

The car that was used in the first take is the car that you see here. Originally finished in Nocturne Blue, Paramount had it repainted in black for the movie. Evidence of this is visible in several spots on the car. Following the conclusion of filming, Paramount gave the car and title to a gentleman by the name of Harold McQueen (no relation to Steve) as payment for him towing the remains of the first car to a workshop to have its roll-cage transferred to the second stunt car. Mr. McQueen’s truck and trailer were also used in a scene in the movie, where the second Trans Am is towed to the car rental company from where Steve McQueen’s character had rented it.

Mr. McQueen then took the remains of the car that he had received from Paramount and placed them in a barn on his farm, his intention was to eventually restore the car. This has never happened, and the car has recently changed hands. The new owner has not revealed his future plans for the car, and it is also not for sale. The owner has documentation verifying the identity of the car, and there are also other physical indications of its past. If you look at the photo above, you can still see the mounting point for the roll-cage in the driver’s side foot-well. The car also carries the original chain-and-hook system that was used to tow the car and trigger the explosion during the movie scene.

The new owner has not been forthcoming about his future plans for the Trans Am, but my own personal hope is that the car is preserved as it is. To me, this would be a fitting tribute to Steve McQueen. A man who was willing to put his body on the line for his craft, and the type actor that we’re never likely to see again.

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  1. stillrunners


    Like 4
  2. Ralph

    Interesting, though from what I recall, McQueen didn’t die from cancer, he did have mesothelioma and it was terminal but he died of a heart attack in a private clinic in Mexico while recovering from experimental surgery in an attempt to “cure” his mesothelioma.

    Like 8
    • FiremanDan

      Rumor has it McQueen contracted the mesothelioma from brig duty working in the bowels of Naval ships while service in the Marine Corps…..also little known fact McQueen rescued several fellow Marines from drowning….
      Semper Fi McQueen….and Semper Fire 💯🎯

      Like 23
    • Mountainwoodie

      I remember his death like it was yesterday. I was in San Diego. Laetrile a derivative of apricot pits was being touted in Mexican clinics as the answer to Mesothelioma lung cancer. It was widely seen as crackpot medicine, He was in a clinic near Tijuana. Meso is accepted to be as a result of exposure to asbestos . A few years before McQueen died I was working a summer job in Pascagoula Ship Yards in Mississippi. I was deep in the bowels of tankers where they were spraying asbestos on the bulkheads. Always wondered if I could have breathed any. So far so good. He died so young.

      Like 8
      • Douglas Willinger

        Many cancer victims and their families have found expensive chemotherapy to be most worthy of the phrase crackpot medicine. Too bad so many continue to assume that such is the most worthy particularly in the “medical profession”.

        Like 3
  3. Dean

    The green Chevy truck with the camper that he owned (and apparently drove to Mexico) is much more interesting

    Like 5
  4. MIkeG

    Oh wow, nice to see they took good care of it!

    Like 17
    • Dickie F

      But did Steve actually touch or drive this car? It was one of 6 and was simply blown up for a scene… .Steve was probably already camping on a beach somewhere.

      Like 0
  5. leiniedude leiniedudeMember

    What is that cool car between the two in the last image in this story, anybody? Way more interesting than this boneyard dog.

    Like 4
    • Moose Soup

      That looks like a circa 77 Toyota Celica coupe.

      Like 1
    • Rusty Pothier

      Its I believe a BMW 635 .

      Like 1
    • TThomen

      Look’s like a Toyota Celica.

      Like 1
    • Rx7turboII

      I was wondering the same exact thing! It almost looks like a late 70s, early 80s Toyota Celica with a trunk but then it almost looks like a Lancia in some ways as well, especially looking at the wheels. Good question!

      Like 5
    • dwise

      Looks like a Toyota Celica to me.

      Like 5
    • KevinR

      ’78 to ’81 Toyota Celica coupe.

      Like 4
      • Douglas Willinger

        When was the last time any of us have seen one of those era Toyota Celicas?

        Like 1
  6. Des RyanMember

    Shame it wasn’t a Pontiac W72 400 four-speed car.

    Like 4
  7. glen

    I’m watching Bullitt as I saw this posting! Some channel called HS70? Bell satellite tv in Canada.

    Like 3
    • GliveCo

      Hollywood Suite 1970s. They also played The Getaway tonight. They’re strictly Canadian channels available only in HD. Good stuff, most of the time. There’s 70s, 80s, 90s, and 2000s.

      Like 3
  8. Tom Carmicheal

    Steve McQueen. was a race car driver and acted for a side job

    Like 14
    • jo6pac

      Yes we use to watch him race a open wheel car at the local tracks in Northern Calif. He was very approachable for us kids.

      Like 6
    • Dickie F

      And so did Paul Newman.

      Like 3
  9. stanley kwiecinski


    Like 3
  10. Suttree

    The Bullitt Mustang was in a Mexican junk yard for decades and this thing is in worse shape.

    Like 5
  11. Coventrycat

    Never even heard of the movie. At least McQueen was too cool to do a mullet having to drive something like that.

    Like 6
  12. Green66

    Not sure I’ll ever understand why this type of provenance has any affect on a car. It’s not like it was his 4 cam 275 GTB or anything. It’s a movie prop.

    Like 7
  13. Gay Car Nut

    How about restoring it to showroom condition, like when McQueen purchased it.

    Like 2

    403 Oldsmopile engine

    Like 2
  15. misterlouMember

    Classic production manager move. Get free car to destroy, hire someone to tow it away, convince them to tow it for free by giving them the totaled car because the actor sat in it for a few minutes. The master class would have had the PM selling the car AND getting the free tow.

    Like 2
  16. FordGuy1972 Fordguy1972Member

    I agree with Green66. I don’t consider this a Steve McQueen car. It’s a car that McQueen sat in for a few takes. That’s all. What’s next? “Here’s a car Steve McQueen looked at! Rare find! One of 3,803,562 he actually looked at!”

    Like 4
  17. Rex FoxMember

    Yeah, I wish I had room to store this car, If I did, I’d pass on this one and get a real car. One that did not take a 15 minute explanation for why the heck this pile is in my garage. Interesting post though. The way you guys mix it up makes this a fun site.

    Like 5
  18. Del

    I have a Bar Stool that Steve once sat on.

    I sit on it every night and drink to Steve.

    Like 7
  19. Little_Cars Saul

    Given the year of filming, someone at Paramount thought they could throw a black Firebird in a flick with Steve McQueen at the wheel and cash in on the “Smokey & The Bandit” movie windfall. Obviously didn’t work, forgettable film. Here we are in 2018 discussing the little car in the background street scene! LOL I guess, like for television’s Rockford, Pontiac was willing to repaint and destroy production Firebirds to get them in show business. Now, where’s the stunt double Pacer from Wayne’s World?

    Like 2
  20. Del

    Good ine Saul 🤣

    Like 0
  21. Chinga-Trailer

    I wonder which tugged McQueen’s heart more – motorcycles or cars?? My first motorcycle ride ever (at age 13) was on the back of his Triumph 650 Bonneville in Burbank, California. The bike was so hotted-up that it was almost unrideable on slow city streets.

    Like 0
  22. Ward William

    Meh. It was not even one of his own cars. It was merely a car that had a small part in his last movie. Scrap value only I’m afraid.

    Like 0

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