Q. I hear that the 1970 Porsche 911S coupe that actor Steve McQueen drove in his classic racing film “Le Mans” is being actioned at the RM Auction, held August 19-20 in Monterey, Calif. How much money do you think that Porsche will bring? – G.P., Philadelphia, Pa.

A. The car is estimated to break the $1 million mark. That’s an insane figure for a mass-produced Porsche, but the late actor’s smaller items have been auctioned off for ridiculous amounts.

Q.I hear that the late actor Fred Astaire, who was known for his fabulous movie dancing, hated the Ferrari that he was briefly shown driving in the famous 1959 movie “On the Beach” about the last people on earth who faced death from radioactivity after World War II. — D. E., Phoenix, Ariz.

A. That  Ferrari was a now-classic 1955 750 Monza Scaglietti Spider race car. It’s worth a small fortune, but not because that model was in the movie. Astaire said as a guest on Johnny Carson’s “Tonight” television show after Carson asked him about the Ferrari that he (Astaire) only drove the car a very short distance and that it scared the heck out of him. Astaire appeared so upset at mention of the Ferrari that Carson didn’t pursue the matter. Carson likely asked the Ferrari question because he was a bit of a car buff who invested in the ill-fated DeLorean car company.   

Q. What is the most expensive Chevrolet Corvair ever sold? – J.W., Bloomfield, Mich.

A. It’s the gorgeous custom-body, one-of-a-kind  1963 Corvair Testudo “concept car.” It sold for $479,000 at RM Auctions’ Villa d’Este auction in Italy on May 21 of this year. Outstanding stock 1963 Corvairs are valued at $15,000, altough most go for less. The special Corvair Testudo came from Italy’s Bertone design outfit, which has formulated some of the wildest one-of-a-kind concept cars. They include the 1967 Lamborghini Marzal (which has two large glass doors); the 1980 Lamborghini Athon; the Lancia Stratos HF “Zero;” the 1974 Lamborghini Bravo, and the 1978 Lancia Sibilo. How much are these cars worth? Well, the Stratos HF “Zero” sold for $1,084,290 and the Marzal sold for a cool $2.1 million at that RM auction.

Q. I hear that India is becoming a big car market. That so? I thought most people ride  bicycles there. – E.H., Hollywood, Calif.

A. India actually surpassed the United Kingdom, France and Italy  to become the sixth-largest auto market in the world in 2010. However, we’re not talking abut Cadillacs or BMWs here. The average transaction price for all new passenger vehicles sold last year in India was about $10,0000—compared with $17,500 in China and $28,000 in the United States.  Nearly 80 percent of all new passenger vehicles sold in India last year were mini cars or subcompacts. Still, India is expected to become one of the three largest world auto markets by 2020, according to a report from J.D. Power and Associates.

Q. I’m told that the 1955-57 Chevrolet is the among the most iconic American cars made, but that the 1955, 1956 and 1957 models are pretty identical.—E.M, Des Moines, Iowa

A. That’s correct, although each year Chevy cleverly facelifted the car, with a different grille and such. Also, the famous Chevy V-8—introduced in 1955—was enlarged from 265 to 283 cubic inches for 1957. It was even offered that year with (then-troublesome) fuel injection, although most Chevy V-8s got carburetors. The 1957 Bel Air coupe and convertible are generally the best-known of the trio.

Q. Did famous author Truman Capote own a Jaguar? – E.N., New York City

A. Capote bought a beautiful “red Jaguar 3.8 sedan” in “1963 or 1964” from famous San Francisco newspaper columnist Herb Caen for a small amount and then tried to drive it to his home in Palm Springs, Calif., says a Capote biography by George Plimpton. Caen warned Capote that the car was unreliable and would break down during the trip. Sure enough, the Jag failed on the way to Palm Springs. Capote angrily had it towed to Palm Springs, where Caen said it eventually “collapsed” in Capote’s garage. “It was a beautiful car. He (Capote) never should have had a car like that,” Caen was quoted as sayng  in the book.

Q. With all the car safety advances, which is the most important?—J.H., Harrisburg, Pa.

A. It’s safety belts, Susan Cischke, group vice president of Ford’s Sustainability, Environment & Safety Engineering told me at a recent Ford Technology Forum in Dearborn, Mich. To that end, Cischke said Ford will expand availability of its new rear inflatable seat belts by offering them on the Ford Flex and Lincoln vehicles. Such rear  belts debuted on the 2011 Ford Explorer. Cischke said the system is designed to help reduce head, neck and chest injuries for rear passengers—often children and older passengers who can be more vulnerable to injuries. Cischke said most who’ve tested the  inflatable belts found them to be similar to, or more comfortable, than a conventional belt because they feel padded and softer. In a frontal or side crash, the inflated belt helps distribute crash force energy across more of a person’s torso than a traditional belt, helping reduce risk of injury.

Q. I’m a big fan of the Chevrolet Camaro, and have a number of history books about it. Any new good Camaro books? — E.M., Chicago.

A. Yes, the latest Camaro book—“Camaro: Five Generations of Performance” by Darwin Holmstrom and David Newhardt is well worthwhile. It lists at $29.95 and has 348 pages with 280 color images. It’s published by Motorbooks and can be obtained at bookstores or bought via online outlets www.motorbooks.com and www.amazon.com

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