There's also some question about McQueen's affection for the car. Chad McQueen, the actor's son, remembers the car disappearing from his dad's collection after only about three years and not the 10 years asserted by Christie's. The Lusso was by no means McQueen's favorite car. "My dad had a lot of favorite cars," says McQueen. Such is the fickleness of a real car guy.
The relationship between celebrity provenance and value is problematic. Much depends on which celebrity. On Friday, for instance, Bonhams & Butterfields is auctioning off a Jaguar once owned by singer Lena Horne, but nobody expects her ownership to command much of a premium over market value. It's not simply a matter of a star's luminosity, Messer says. "It's got to resonate." People have been burned speculating on cars once owned by Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley.
"McQueen is not your average celebrity," says Christopher Sanger, vice president of Christie's and head of U.S. sales of automobiles. "From his movie work to his personal life, he was synonymous with cars, horsepower, racing."
And McQueen's stock is rising. According to Martin Cribbs, director of rights representation for Corbis, which manages the actor's image and likeness for his heir, McQueen is one of the firm's top 10 earning accounts and, in terms of requests, among the top three, which puts the unlettered McQueen right up there with Einstein.