1923 Indian motorcycle with sidecar and claimed Steve McQueen ownership

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The 1923 Indian is from the first model year of the large-displacement Big Chief

A 1923 Indian Big Chief motorcycle is a big deal on its own, but add in the impeccable celebrity provenance of Steve McQueen ownership and a Von Dutch restoration, and you wind up with something special indeed. 

That particular item is advertised on ClassicCars.com by a dealer in Auburn Hills, Michigan, a 1,200cc V-twin Big Chief equipped with a Princess sidecar that belonged to the late actor, according to the seller.

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“Not only was it owned by Steve McQueen, but it was additionally restored at his request by renowned artist Kenny Howard, known by those in the custom-car and motorcycle world as Von Dutch,” the ad says. 

The Big Chief debuted in 1923 as Indian upped its game with a big-displacement engine and more features.  It quickly became Indian’s best-selling model and propelled the Massachusetts company to become the largest motorcycle manufacturer in the world.

But the intrinsic value of this highly desirable vintage motorcycle pales compared with the aura created by the McQueen effect, which makes just about anything that he once owned, drove or sat in become enormously valuable.

The Von Dutch restoration adds quite a bit to the allure.  His business card with “for Steve McQueen” hand-written on it is laminated inside the sidecar, offering validity of the relationship.  The seller does not mention other documentation in the ad, so a prospective buyer would need to ask. 

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“In 1969, McQueen turned to the best in the business of car-culture art and motorcycle mechanicals when it came time to restore this iconic first-year Indian Big Chief,” the seller says. “Von Dutch was a highly influential Southern California-based artist, fabricator, mechanic and restorer.

“The mechanical side of the restoration began with the 1,200cc (74 CI) Indian dual-cam V-twin, and worked its way out to the paint, lettering and pinstriping laid down by Von Dutch himself.”

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The Indian looks to be in great condition, mated with the correct type sidecar, and it’s a “rideable and enduring symbol of the dedication and creativity of people that embrace motorcycling with passion,” the seller adds.

Mix a highly desirable motorcycle with a pair of pop-culture icons, and the value rockets far above what the books say it’s worth.  The seller is apparently counting on the McQueen effect as the asking price is a resounding $199,000. 

To view this listing on ClassicCars.com, see Pick of the Day

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Bob Golfen is a longtime automotive writer and editor, focusing on new vehicles, collector cars, car culture and the automotive lifestyle. He is the former automotive writer and editor for The Arizona Republic and SPEED.com, the website for the SPEED motorsports channel. He has written free-lance articles for a number of publications, including Autoweek, The New York Times and Barrett-Jackson auction catalogs. A collector car enthusiast with a wide range of knowledge about the old cars that we all love and desire, Bob enjoys tinkering with archaic machinery. His current obsession is a 1962 Porsche 356 Super coupe.

4 COMMENTS

  1. I love pictures of old cars I had a 68 Chevelle super sport and it got burnt up in a car accident and I never could save enough money to get another one I just love pictures of old cars

  2. Bonjour,
    je recherche une Austin Healey Bj8 propre tournante, prix intéressant .
    Merci d’avance pour vos offres.
    Cordialement.
    Yvan Montuori.

  3. For many of us the McQueen-Von Ditch-Indian corals three of the most iconic names in our liftime. An incredible piece indeed! Good luck with the 200 Gs, can,t help ya there.

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