"Racing is life. Anything that happens before or after is just waiting". is a quote often attributed to Steve McQueen, but it was actually the1950's French racing driver Maurice Trintignant who said this.
McQueen was a motorcycle and racecar enthusiast. When he had the opportunity to drive in a movie, he often did so himself, performing many of his own stunts. The most memorable were the classic chase in Bullitt and the motorcycle chase scene in The Great Escape. The jump over the fence was actually done by one of his riding buddies for insurance purposes.
During his acting career he considered becoming a professional race car driver. In the 1970 race 12 Hours of Sebring, Peter Revson and McQueen finished second with a Porsche 908/02.
The same car was used as a camera car for the Le Mans in the 24 Hours of Le Mans later that year, entered by his production company Solar Productions.
McQueen himself wanted to enter a Porsche 917 together with Jackie Stewart but this was not accepted.
The film Le Mans with director Lee Katzin. and starring Steve McQueen, featured footage from the actual 1970 Le Mans race.
The film is still popular today and is a relatively accurate depiction of the era, with a lot of racing but very little dialogue. In fact, the first 38 minutes, showing McQueen's character arrive and the pre-race build-up, does not have any dialogue at all. Due to this, and partly to the American market's general low awareness of the Le Mans 24 Hour race, it was only a moderate success at the box office there.
He also competed in off-road motorcycle racing. In 1971, Solar Productions funded the now-classic motorcycle documentary 'On Any Sunday', in which McQueen himself is featured, along with racing legends Mert Lawwill and Malcolm Smith.
He owned several luxurious and exotic sportscars including: Porsche 917, Porsche 908 and Ferrari 512 race cars from the Le Mans film. Ferrari Lusso Berlinetta, Jaguar XKSS, Porsche 356 Speedster.
To his dismay, McQueen never was able to own the legendary Ford Mustang GT that he drove in Bullitt. There were two cars used for filming. It is rumored that both models of the car mysteriously disappeared after the filming was finished (similar to the Easy Rider bikes).
The film's director Peter Yates recently stated in a radio interview that both vehicles are still in existence (BBC Radio 4, 7 January 2006).
Steve McQueen became a born-again Christian just shortly before he died in 1980. He was, up until his death, hosting weekly Bible study devotionals in his home.
McQueen died at the age of 50 in Juárez, Mexico of a heart attack following cancer surgery.