DETROIT – Ford is going to bite the Bullitt again.
The Mustang that Steve McQueen drove into Hollywood history for the 1968 movie Bullitt emerged for the first time in 40 years Sunday at the Detroit auto show in tandem with the debut of a new, limited-edition 2019 Mustang Bullitt.
The special model, due out this summer, will be available only in Shadow Black or Dark Highland Green. It has a 5-liter V-8 engine that packs at least 475 horsepower and tops out at 163 miles per hour – an 8 mph increase over the latest Mustang GT.
Like the original Bullitt car, the third-generation vehicle lacks stripes, spoilers or badges.
“It doesn’t need to scream about anything. It’s just cool,” said chief designer
The all-new Mustang Bullitt is equipped with manual transmission, and the gear shifter features a white cue ball shift knob as a nod to the original. Standard
equipment reflects a new era, with a heated leather steering wheel and high-tech
Features pay tribute to the car McQueen drove, with chrome accents around the grille and front windows, classic torque thrust 19-inch aluminum wheels, a black
front grille. Only the circular faux gas cap Bullitt logo on the rear center is
visible on the exterior. The leather-trimmed interior features green accent stitching on the dashboard, door panels, center console and seats.
“It has to have the right attitude, it has to be unique in some way from a Mustang GT and, more than anything, it has to be badass,” said chief engineer
Two identical 1968 Mustang GT fastbacks were used in the film, which debuted Oct. 17, 1968. The hero vehicle was sold by the studio to a private buyer and the other, used in so many chase scenes, went to a salvage yard. The latter vehicle resurfaced in Baja California, in early 2017 but the other was lost. Until now.
“This is probably the Holy Grail, if there is one,” said Mark Gessler, president
of the Historic Vehicle Association. “It’s one of the most important artifacts
of the 21st Century in terms of automotive history. It is a national cultural treasure.”
McQueen filmed all the chase scenes himself in the Warner Bros. classic that depicts a cop chasing hit men through the hills of San Francisco. Real speed. Real crashes. Real point of view of the driver.
As it turns out, the 1968 car has been in a family garage, quietly waiting for the film's 50th anniversary. Its owner died years ago, leaving a son to hold on
to a collector car found in a classified ad from Road & Track magazine in 1974.
Hargerty, a classic-car insurance company, says that based on other famous movie
cars like the Batmobille and James Bond's original Aston Martin, the origial Bullitt Mustang could be worth more than $4 million at auction.
“We kept it a secret in the family for so long, hiding in plain sight,” Sean
Kiernan, 36, of Hendersonville, Tenn., said. “We hoped to restore it, but then
my dad got Parkinson’s and I had my first daughter and life was happening.”
Ford has been working with Kieran since he reached out two years ago. On Sunday,
Kiernan, an automotive paint manager who drives a 2014 GT Mustang California Special, was part of the North American International Auto Show introducing the
public to the new Mustang Bullitt.
“The car shows the gentle patina of time. It has rust marks,” said Gessler, who
noted that Detroit will be the first stop before a national tour that includes Washington, D.C. “Steve McQueen wanted to create the most realistic chase scene
ever on film. He found a director, Peter Yates, and Warner Bros. gave him the reins. They took four weeks to shoot an 11-minute chase scene.”
McQueen had all the badging on the car removed. It was recognizable from just its angles and silhouettes. And that’s why the new model is so sparse, said Kevin Marti, owner of Marti Auto Works in El Mirage, Ariz., who created and maintains the database for every Ford vehicle built since 1967. “This car is so
iconic that you don’t even need to put a name on the thing. That speaks to the
confidence Ford has.”
As the licensee of Ford production records, he tracks every vehicle identification number for more than 140 million cars, and he notes style and color trends of each era. In the 1960s, popular cars were avocado green, white and red. In the 1970s, automakers turned to browns, yellows and earthy colors. Now consumers lean toward silver, white and black. So Dark Highland Green will make a statement. It is a throwback color on a throwback car.