Amelia Island 2020

Dune buggy from 'The Thomas Crown Affair' sells for $456,000

This dune buggy was driven by Steve McQueen in the cinematic classic "The Thomas Crown Affair".

Photo courtesy of Bonham's

When the gavel fell on Lot 119 on Saturday afternoon, a piece of cinematic history was claimed by new owners. Bonham's auctioned off the 1967/68 Con-Ferr Meyers Manx Dune Buggy from the classic movie "The Thomas Crown Affair" to the highest bidder during the company's annual Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance auction.

Before it was driven around by Hollywood heartthrob and noted automotive enthusiast Steve McQueen, the car was specially built for the movie. It's an authentic Meyers Manx complete with a modified Volkswagen floor plan, chassis, and suspension. The exterior was been thoroughly customized for the movie by Con-Ferr as were the interior, exhaust, and wheels (American Racing Wheels). The seat frames are from a Datsun Fair Lady.

Thomas Crown Affair 1968 dune buggy Actors Faye Dunaway and Steve McQueen ride in a dune buggy in a scene from the movie "The Thomas Crown Affair" which was released on June 19, 1968. Photo by Getty Images

The car is powered by a 2,683 cc lat six-cylinder Chevrolet Corvair engine and gets over 140 bhp. That's well over the 40-125 bhp generally gotten from the traditional air-cooled Volkswagen flat-fours in the dune buggies at the time.

Originally, the script called for Crown to be driving a Jeep but McQueen nixed that idea after allegedly seeing the original Meyers Manx on the cover of a 1966 issue of "Hot Rod" magazine and thought it would be more his character's style.

As part of the car's listing, Bonham's described McQueen's affinity of the little car:

In a period documentary about the making of the film, McQueen told the story of the one-off dune buggy that so clearly demonstrated his love of cars and his driving ability: "Crown lives at the beach, and he has a sand dune buggy. I helped 'em design it, so I'm kinda proud of that. It's set on a Volkswagen chassis, with big ol' wide weenies, big wide tires on mag wheels, Corvair engine stuffed in the back...It's very light, you know. It's pulling about 230 horses, and the vehicle weighs about 1,000 pounds."

The car appears in a pivotal scene in "The Thomas Crown Affair" where McQueen and co-star Faye Dunaway take on sand dunes in the car. McQueen did all the driving for the film.

Post-production, the car lead a less exciting life, spending much of its time driving around Hawaii, living the beach life it was built for. For nearly two decades it sat in a warehouse then it was purchased, disassembled, and restored with concours-level precision.

Lot 119 sold for $456,000 including the premium.

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Nuts & Bolts

 
 

Subaru Motorsports takes center stage in the newest season of "Launch Control".

Photo courtesy of Subaru of America Inc.

The award-winning "Launch Control" documentary series will return December 2 for its eighth season. The show will air on YouTube and Amazon Prime Video.

Season 8 of "Launch Control" picks up where Season 7 left off. The Subaru team has just won the rally and rallycross championships but the future of the team is uncertain.

The program, which has been chronicling the Subaru Motorsports teams since 2013, documents the challenging 2020 season of the driving sports, which included a new rally driver lineup, a shortened and delayed season due to COVID-19, and the return of ace driver Scott Speed following a season-ending back injury in 2019.

Season 8: "Launch Control"

Photo courtesy of Subaru of America Inc.

"Launch Control" will also include a two-part sneak peek at the one-off WRX STI build that Subaru worked with Vermont SportsCar to create for the next installment of the "Gymkhana" franchise, where Subaru driving star Travis Pastrana will take over the feature roll from Ken Block.

New episodes documenting the stage rally season will release every other Wednesday through December and January, with the two-part Gymkhana STI build special arriving in February.

"'Launch Control' has always been an unflinching look at the reality of running a top-level motorsports program," said William Stokes, Motorsports Manager for Subaru of America. "This year brought more challenges than anyone expected, but we're a rally team, and in rally we press on regardless. As tough as this season was, we're thrilled to bring the series back—especially for the fans who couldn't come to events in 2020, who we've missed most of all."

The program is a production of Formula Photographic and Bowes Media with the support of Subaru of America.

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Little Sesame's Volkswagen Bus allows the restaurant's chefs to travel the country in search of new flavors.

Photo courtesy of Volkswagen AG

Holiday shoppers this year, once again, have shopping small on the mind. For some businesses, their idea of small is smaller than most. From a hummus shop to a coffee shop, to a mobile bookstore, many small business owners rely on vintage Volkswagen products to help their businesses run.

Little Sesame

Little Sesame Volkswagen Bus

Photo courtesy of Volkswagen AG

In 2015, chefs Nick Wiseman and Ronen Tenne opened their hummus shop in Washington, D.C. They didn't just want another restaurant, they wanted to create a different way of doing business than they'd experienced in some of the New York City area kitchens they'd cooked in over the years. They wanted travel.

In order to inspire new flavors , Wiseman and Tenne hop into their robin's egg blue 1978 Volkswagen Bus and explore the country. Their current Bowl of the Week brings in autumn and wintertime flavors with ingredients like maple roasted winter squash, pomegranate molasses, crispy chickpeas, za'ata, and herbs.

The restaurant, with locations in the Golden Triangle and Chinatown, is currently open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. They offer catering and meal kits as well as online ordering for pickup and delivery.

Dom's Coffee

In Farmington Valley, Connecticut, a European-style coffee shop sits on a strip of real estate next to buildings similar to what you'd find in nearly anyone's hometown - a car dealership and a church. The brick-and-mortar shop was opened by Andrius Plankis and Asta Plankiene in May 2015, two years after the couple emigrated to the U.S. from Lithuania.

In addition to their shop, they run a fully-equipped mobile espresso bar out of the back of a Volkswagen Atlas R-Line. Their specialty is artistically crafted drinks including espressos, affogatos, specialty lattes, cold brews, and hot chocolates.

The Cincy Book Bus

The Cincy Book Bus

Photo courtesy of Volkswagen AG

After retiring from 25 years of teaching, Melanie Moore decided it was time to pursue her dream: opening a bookstore. But she didn't just want to own the shop around the corner, she wanted to have a business that would work to get books into the hands of children that need them the most. Just as she was about to sign a lease for a storefront, she got cold feet.

Inspired by a novel centered around a fictional, female horse-drawn carriage bookseller, Moore decided to launch the Cincy Book Bus – a mobile bookstore – out of the bed of her husband's teal 1962 Volkswagen Transporter. The van holds about 150 books, and Moore regularly rotates titles to cater to her audiences.

Moore dedicates her profits to stocking classroom libraries.

While these three businesses are small, three large corporations (including Nike) were founded from humble beginnings thanks in no small part to their Volkswagens. Click here to read their stories.

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