Special edition vehicles should be exactly that. They should offer something exceptional enough to tempt you to dig deeper in your pocket and drive away in a vehicle that's, well, special. “Investment” and historical issues aside, the Mustang Shelby GT didn’t provide a look and feel that justified the massive amount of extra coin demanded by dealers. By the same token, The Bullitt Mustang succeeds. It’s truly a unique set of wheels.
It’s easy to miss/dismiss the Bullitt Mustang as a Secretary’s Special. The Bullitt eschews all the fake hood scoop and plastic louver jewelry associated with modded ‘Stangs. The Ford style team stripped all chrome and badging from the GT’s exterior, deleted the spoiler. They added a satin aluminum grill surround (in honor of the ‘68’s chrome bumper), a Bullitt badge on the trunk lid and dark grey Bullitt “Torq Thrust” wheels. And called it good.
In either the standard Highland Green, or Satin Black, the Bullitt Mustang echoes the subdued style of the 1968 movie car as closely as the D2C platform and modern dynamics allow. The only aesthetic imperfection: the trunk doesn’t allow a true “fastback” rear end. In fact, it renders a slight “cat in heat” rear-in-the-air look. (Thank God for the subdued paint.)
Taken as a whole, the Ford Mustang GT Bullitt oozes understated cool. Forsaking Roush-style flash prevalent in Ford’s other special edition Mustangs, the Bullitt Mustang channels the aura of Lieutenant Frank Bullitt (Steve McQueen). In your mind’s eye, you can see the Bullitt Mustang laying in wait, ready to pounce on any black Charger that speeds by in the hills of San Francisco…
The interior design team mistook understatement for underdevelopment. On the positive side, they nabbed the highly-bolstered and supremely comfortable seats from the GT500. On the negative side, everything else. To wit: the lame-looking plastic Bullitt badge on the steering wheel . The dash boasts aluminum trim from a Starbucks countertop. The dashboard itself feels as brittle and old as the stone steps of ancient Petra. Ford doesn’t give you the upgraded stitched leather top; it’s a major omission on a special edition.
The Bullitt’s Shaker 500 stereo pumps out Night Ranger’s “Sister Christian” with teeth-rattling base, but sounds slightly weak when screeching out Celine Dion’s latest (don’t ask me how I know that). Ford’s standard green-toothpick digital display dominates the center console. (Oh for the chrome-knobbed stereo of 1968!) The leather-covered seats are fashioned from a higher grade of cow than the abysmal standard interior, but you’re still left wondering if the material came from a bovine or an oil field.
Never mind. The sound the Bullitt Mustang’s 315bhp (15bhp more than stock) 4.6-liter V8 makes rivals Alfa Romeo’s aural porn. The ‘Stang’s mill is soft and burbly at idle. Press the hammer down and the powerplant erupts into a tirade violent enough to make presidential candidates shut up and take notice (not to mention the Secret Service’s adrenalin rush). Ford says it spent $10m revising the Bullitt’s exhaust note to mimic Steve McQueen’s ’68 fastback. If Ford spent every $10m to such great effect, bankruptcy rumors would cease to exist.
And yes, it’s fast. Coupled with a GT500 3:73 shortened rear axle ratio, the Bullitt launches to 60mph with tire smoking squeal and axle tramp (just like the movie!) in five seconds flat.
The machined aluminum shifter knob connected to a close-ratio, short-shift Tremec five-speed adds to the excitement. Smooth, quick and assuring, the shifter puts Hurst’s Shelby GT stick-in-sand shifter to absolute shame. Ford also included machined aluminum pedals positioned to facilitate heel and toeing– providing you’re wearing large shoes.
Ford borrowed many of the Shelby GT’s suspension components to liven-up, I mean “improve,” the standard GT’s handling. Turn-in defies the muscle car mass, and progressive feedback provides driving thrills all the way up to about eight tenths. Then the Bullitt shows how heavy it really is, yells uncle and steps the rear end out in smokey, Hollywood tail-slide glory.
The Bullitt’s ride quality sacrifices those extra two-tenths of handling ability to offer some daily usability. The ride of the Mustang Bullitt mimics not the original 1968 movie car, but a 2003 BMW 5-series. The Bullitt bounces dramatically only over the worst patches of interstate. Ford also skimped on the brakes to keep the price down. They stop long and fade quickly compared to the Bullitt’s competitors.
While not quite perfect, the Mustang GT Bullitt edition comes as close as the current body style allows. The Mustang Bullitt does more than the Shelby GT, with more style and some $6K less wedge. It echoes the original character of not only the movie car but the King of Cool himself. Aside from the tatty interior, the Ford Mustang GT Bullitt is what all Mustangs should be.