McQueen's Relationship with Husqvarna Started at a Race
Story & Images Stan Evans
Actor Steve McQueen owned over 200 motorcycles, many of them Husqvarna dirt bikes. His love for the Swedish brand ignited in 1968 after watching motocross world champion Bengt Aberg race a brand-new Viking 360cc in the Inter-Am series in Santa Cruz, California. Husqvarna built the 215-lb Viking 360 to compete in the 500cc open class, and created its 37-horsepower two-stroke engine by boring and stroking an existing 250cc. After the race McQueen approached Aberg to learn more about the bike, and the actor offered to buy the “Engine # MF-1987” Viking on the spot.
Edison Dye— “the father of motocross in the United States” —brokered the purchase through his company, Med-International, the exclusive U.S. importer and dealer of Husqvarna motorcycles, and the bike was shipped back to L.A. for McQueen to enjoy. It was the first Husqvarna McQueen purchased and is the only ’68 model he owned, and because of that it’s one of McQueen’s most sought-after Husqvarnas. (Understandably so, too. Last fall at auction, the 1970 Husqvarna 400 Cross he rode in On Any Sunday sold for $230,500, and last week in Las Vegas his '38 Triumph Speed Twin sold for $175,500.)
In 2014, the 1968 “Engine # MF-1987” Viking underwent a 14-month “concours quality” restoration. With smoothed paint and cleaned chrome, it’s now an immaculate vintage machine in full running condition. The bike retains its original 360cc engine, 32mm Bing carburetor, and 4-speed transmission, but a PowerDynamo electronic ignition replaces the stock points-type ignition. Fortunately, the Viking’s new owners retained the original ignition.
The bike resides at Blacksmith Garage in Eden, Utah, a vintage car, truck, and motorcycle shop that collects Steve McQueen and Bud Ekins (McQueen’s stunt man) memorabilia. McQueen owned a lot of bikes, but there are very few more important, with more paperwork and provenance, than his 1968 Husqvarna Viking 360cc, Engine #MF-1987.
The story behind the shoot:
Two years ago Stan Evans, a commercial photographer based out of Los Angeles, stumbled upon a small blacksmith shop in Eden, Utah. When he inquired about shooting the exterior of the shop, the shop owner invited Evans inside and revealed a growing collection of vintage cars, motorcycles, and memorabilia. When the shop owner asked Evans if he would photograph McQueen’s 1968 Husqvarna Viking 360cc, the photographer said only if he could “better capture the spirit of motorcycling than the sterile photos you might use for auction,” and he hired a model who looks sort of like a young Steve McQueen.