There are two ways in which a car can benefit from the ‘halo effect’ of Le Mans: by having raced there or by being involved in the cult film of the same name.
This Jaguar E-type falls into the latter category, since it was delivered new to the circuit for the attention of Steve McQueen’s Solar Productions to serve as one of a small fleet of sports cars that he used on and around the set (perhaps the most famous of which was the slate-grey Porsche 911 that McQueen drives in the opening of the film and which sold at auction in 2011 for almost £860,000).
Being a US specification car it’s likely that the Series II E-type was originally intended to be packed up and flown back to Solar HQ in California but McQueen ended up giving it to a member of the production team, a young Swiss chef called Fredy Zurbrügg.
Although only 27 years old at the time, Zurbrügg had already earned himself a reputation in the movie industry after being taken on to handle the catering during the Swiss-based filming of the Bond movie On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.
The man who hired him, Hubert Fröhlich, was so impressed by Zurbrügg’s chef skills that he invited him to work in the so-called ‘Solar Village’ at Le Mans, where he set up his own kitchen and was soon cooking up a storm for the 800 cast and crew.
The fact that he is said to have created a special dish for McQueen called (imaginatively) ‘the Steve Steak’ may have been behind the often irascible star’s decision to offer Zurbrügg his choice of cars from a personal Le Mans road fleet that comprised the aforementioned Porsche, a Mercedes-Benz ‘Pagoda’ SL and the one the chef picked, the 600-mile E-type.
Lacking a licence at the time, Zurbrügg was forced to take his driving test in the town of Le Mans, passed it at his second attempt, and took the car home to Switzerland – where it has remained in his ownership ever since.
Totally original and unrestored, it retains its factory silver paint, black leather interior and UK registration plates and has covered just 46,000 miles from new. Zurbrügg, now 80, is said to have had no idea that the car had become so valuable – and will no doubt celebrate its sale with a slap-up dinner.
1970 Jaguar E-type
On sale at Bonhams, Monte Carlo, May 13