When it comes to muscle car movies, I’ve always enjoyed Vanishing Point over than the more mainstream Bullitt. But that comes with the territory. If you appreciated the Dodge E Body more than the other designs from that era, it would tend to sway your opinion on movies as well. Not to mention, a Charger was the “bad guy” in Bullitt. Battle lines drawn.
That being said, I’m not a monster. The fact that BOTH of the Bullitt Mustangs, one assumed dead, have reappeared in the last year certainly has me intrigued. And Ford making a big deal of the 50th anniversary of the car and film with a new 2019 Bullitt Mustang is impossible to ignore if you have a car lover’s pulse.
The story of the original Bullitt Mustangs makes me long for a time when we could have such mystery in this world. In the age of the Internet, it’s more difficult for a car to just disappear. As much as everyone wanted these cars to be found, there’s something to be said for the intrigue of the unknown. Once the mystery is solved, a little something is lost.
As the story goes, the shooting of Bullitt wrapped, and the main two 1968 Ford Mustangs driven by Steve McQueen were no longer needed. One, the stunt car, was reportedly sold for scrap and crushed long ago. The other, the “hero car” was sold, but it’s exact whereabouts haven’t been known for years, although it was known that it was privately owned.
The first car that came back to the spotlight was the least likely. The stunt car that was assumed crushed was discovered and purchased in Mexico. The new owner, Hugo Sanchez, ironically purchased the car to turn it into a replica of the Eleanor Mustang from Gone in 60 Seconds. Needless to say, when the data came back on the car’s origin, he scrapped that plan (junkyard pun).
With the buzz in the air, and the 50th anniversary looming, the current owner of the hero car, Sean Kiernan, decided to break his silence. The car had been with the family for several moves after the clutch went out of it in 1980. Sean’s father, Richard, bought the car from a Road & Track classified in 1974 for a mere $6,000. From 1974-80, it had become a daily driver in the family.
Richard had planned to fix the car up, but like many of us, never got around to it. So there it sat, moving only when the family did, finally winding up near Nashville. Until now.
Ford has definitely capitalized on the Bullitt momentum with the new version of the Mustang rolling out with the recovered hero car at the Detroit Auto Show and getting McQueen’s granddaughter involved in the promo.
But don’t expect the car to be absorbed into Ford’s collection – or anyone’s for that matter. Sean’s father passed away in 2014, and although the car is worth millions now (a reported $5 million), he says he won’t ever sell it. The memories are more important. What a refreshing take on life. (Meanwhile, the Bullitt Charger was on the block – for $1 million – a few years back).
As for the new Bullitt Mustang Special Edition, it will be equipped with a 5.0-liter V-8 engine that will allow it to travel up to 163 mph thanks to 475 horsepower and 420 lb-ft of torque. Expect it to be available this summer.
With all the mysteries solved in the Bullitt case, I guess all that’s left is to enjoy the stories – and the new Mustang. I suppose that’s not too bad.