Steve McQueens’ Movie: ‘Day of The Champion’…

Posted: September 18, 2014 in Obscurities
Tags: , ,


Steve McQueen (or is it John Whitmore) at the wheel of a Lotus 30 shooting some of the million feet of unused footage for this cancelled movie…

John Frankenheimer and MGM were in a race with Steve McQueen and Warner Bros to make a movie with Grand Prix racing as its theme.

John Sturges was the Director of Day of The Champion, filming of footage, using many cars specifically acquired for the purpose commenced in 1965.

‘The Sand Pebbles’ in which McQueen starred, and for which he received his only Academy Award Nomination ran over time, delaying the production of ‘Day of The Champion’, his Hollywood neighbour James Garner played the lead role in ‘Grand Prix’, the iconic 1966 F1 movie and a huge commercial success, beating ‘Day of a Champion’ into the cinemas.

The pin was pulled on the “Day of The Champion’, there was no value in two similar movies appearing at about the same time.

McQueen didn’t speak to Garner for over two years…but came back with a vengeance in ‘Le Mans’, not much of a story, a commercial flop but a sensational racing movie!

John Sturges famously quit ‘Le Mans’ after arguments with McQueen who wanted a documentary style ‘slice of racing life’ film, Sturges equally adamant that a strong story line was essential for commercial success…’I’m too old and rich to put up with this shit’ was his parting line.

‘Le Mans’ was completed, after running hopelessly over budget, but only after Steve tipped his acting fee and forfeited his gross in the films takings to fund it…

But what a movie!


‘Day of The Champion’ production teaser (Pinterest)


Getting rid of cars now surplus to stock…(Pinterest)

steve 2

‘Day of The Champion’ morphed into ‘Le Mans’ several years later, a commercial flop but a triumph as McQueens creative tribute to motor racing (Pinterest)


‘Pete Arron’ ready to race… James Garner proved himself a dab hand at the wheel during the filming of ‘Grand Prix’ (Pinterest)


‘Grand Prix’ cut it creatively, commercially, and as a racing movie. Iconic to this day, and one of the top ten grossing films of 1966 (Pinterest)

Photo Credits…


  1. Andrew M Talbot says:

    What happened to the footage shot? My mum and dad were there at Oulton Park.

  2. John Wood says:

    First photo looks more like Lola T70.

    • markbisset says:

      Hi John,
      Google a few Lotus 30 period shots, on balance that is probably correct. At least one other site lists John Whitmore as the driver- that could well be the case, have changed the wording accordingly.

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