The "King of Cool" apparently found a measure of peace in Santa Paula, Calif., where he could stash his collection of cars, planes, and motorcycles, and the locals didn’t seem to think it was such a big deal that a legendary movie star was living in their midst.
Steve McQueen had largely turned away from Hollywood when he settled in the town, about 75 miles northwest of Los Angeles, in 1979. Drawn there, according to biographers, by the town’s reputation as the vintage-plane capital of America, the tough-boy icon purchased a nearby 15.5-acre ranch with an 1892 cottage and a 4,500-square-foot hangar that he stuffed with dirt bikes, Indian motorcycles and rare sports cars.
McQueen, who became one of the world’s highest-paid actors in the 1960s, honed an image of toughness in such noted films as "Bullitt," "The Great Escape," and "The Cincinnati Kid."
But he started turning down most roles in the 1970s, focusing instead on auto and motorcycle racing and traveling the back roads of the West. He purchased two vintage Stearman biplanes and persuaded a Santa Paula local to become his flight instructor.