By on March 6, 2017

bullitt mustang

Steve McQueen tear-assing around the streets of San Francisco in a Highland Green 1968 Mustang GT, hoping desperately to catch the two contract killers in a stealth black Dodge Charger R/T of the same vintage, is the standout moment from the film Bullitt. Three minutes of tension-building tailing followed by seven minutes of the most enjoyable and realistic on-screen tire-smoking mayhem ever set to jazz fusion. It is still one of the best car chases in any film, if not the best.

Sadly, as with most movie cars, the Mustang that did the majority of that incredible driving and took the brunt of the abuse vanished while the one kept pristine for the camera ended up on the East Coast in someone’s private collection. The owner of that car is notoriously secretive about it and has used it off-and-on as a daily driver, which is a shame, as the stunt car was assumed to have been sent to a junkyard and destroyed.

Then it cropped up in Mexico after having languished in anonymity for decades. 

After filming wrapped on Bullitt, Steve McQueen purportedly tried to purchase the surviving vehicle to no avail. The Mexican Mustang, which has telltale modifications like a hole in the trunk for an onboard generator used to power lights and reinforced shock towers, was recently happened upon by Vintage Mustang Forum member Fede Garza. An acquaintance had purchased the car from a private party and originally indented to modify it. After a little research, he changed his mind.

While nobody at Warner Brothers has unequivocally said, “Yes, this is the car,” Garza did post a VIN that allegedly matches one of the cars used in the movie. He also had Ford expert and Barrett-Jackson consultant Kevin Marti come down and inspect the vehicle. Garza has since made a Facebook posting calling the car “authentic” and has announced that it will be heading back to America for restoration.

bullitt mustang

[Images: Warner Brothers]

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44 Comments on “Missing Bullitt Mustang Allegedly Found in Mexico After Hiding for Decades...”


  • avatar
    FreedMike

    When it comes back, I move that it be properly accompanied by music:
    youtube.com/watch?v=DUo9ogmtBoU

  • avatar

    So, next year Bullitt is half a century old. Can’t believe it. Still the best car chase that was ever done in a movie. Perhaps Ford should bring a Bullitt Anniversary edition next year, on the basis of what I consider the best Mustang since the first one 50 years ago, the present Mustang of course.

    • 0 avatar
      True_Blue

      From what I’ve heard, they are considering a 50th anniversary Bullitt 2018 Mustang.

      No 390 FE though.

      • 0 avatar
        rudiger

        Ford has done a masterful job of utilizing and metering out the Bullitt name, primarily on limiting on how often they use dark green as a color. The first limited-edition Bullitt car was released for 2001, followed seven years later for 2008. While not a runaway success, they still sold well. So, the timing is definitely there for 2018, particularly being the 50 year anniversary of the movie.

        And it is also definitely a questionable coincidence that the second, action car just ‘happened’ to be found at the same time. It’s just such a pity that the hoarder who has the first, good car is letting it rot away.

    • 0 avatar
      Erikstrawn

      “Still the best car chase that was ever done in a movie.”

      I dunno, I’m a pretty big fan of the 45 minute chase in the orginal Gone in 60 Seconds. The rest of the movie is crap, but when your lead actor/director/writer/stuntman accidentally sideswipes a light pole at 90mph, breaks two ribs, minimally fixes the car, and continues filming the next day, you’re on the road to greatness.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    What if the truck bringing it back is being followed by the Charger?

  • avatar
    True_Blue

    I’m a member at VMF and on the FB page (same S/N, TrueBlue) and also an original Highland Green 1968 fastback owner (sadly, not a 390GT, but a C-code V8/manual). I’ve been following this with interest.

    Warner Bros bought two sequential 1968 Highland Green 390GT Mustang fastbacks and modified them for the movie. One was located years ago in KY and restored. The cars were beefed up for jumps, and had other modifications for filming and camera equipment. Here’s the OP describing the find:

    “Its currently in Mexico, seems its been here for a good 20-30 years, at one point it was in baja california sur (near los cabos) rotting away, a guy bought the fastback and the coupe , together with intent to have the Fastback turned in to an eleanor…

    I have a fastener distribution bussines been involved with mustangs all my life, the owner of the shop buys fasteners from me, he came in one day almost pale and shaking, showed me the vin, the marti report, and the tittle at his name. and the rest will become history…”

    The plan was to turn the fastback into an Eleanor clone car. The greatest movie chase car in history, to be turned into a clone of another movie car. Wow.

    Anyway, Kevin Marti (if you know classic Mustangs and ’60s Fords, you know the name) has been in Mexico and supposedly wanted his pic taken in the car, grinning ear-to-ear.

    It looks like it went through some restoration work but the VIN is correct (8R02S125559 is the known Kentucky car, 8R02S125558 is this one), has the correct movie mods and damage from filming, and even has a “pink slip” California title.

    A gent flew down and apparently purchased the car:

    “The 2nd Bullitt Mustang from the original Steve Mc Queen movie has been found by a freind of my freind in Mexico. I have been helping my freind Ralph who is now co owner, for a couple of months on it and now the news is out world wide…

    ‘The car was bought for under $5000.00 and in its present shape it is valued in the millions.”

    Absolutely stunning news for Mustang lovers and movie fans in general.

  • avatar
    True_Blue

    This was the letter McQueen wrote in ’77 to get the car back.

    http://www.mustangspecs.com/steveletter.jpg

    “Otherwise, we better forget it.” Hah!

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    That is a beautiful car with an awesome soundtrack under the hood.

  • avatar
    OldManPants

    Could that Mustang have caught today’s Camry?

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      Hmm, looking at the performance specs for that Mustang, probably not! A V6 Camry is right quick, and would way out-handle the Bullitt Mustang.

    • 0 avatar
      True_Blue

      I lost a “drag race” (more of a lane-merging exercise) to a current Accord in my 302-powered version.

    • 0 avatar
      DC Bruce

      How about with today’s rubber on all four wheels? BTW, I have to congratulate OMP on the absolute bestest moniker and avatar I’ve seen. I chuckle every time I see it. Well done!

      • 0 avatar
        OldManPants

        Thanks, but all credit is due the great French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson.

      • 0 avatar
        True_Blue

        Several vintage muscle cars pick up anywhere from a half- to full-second on the dragstrip using modern rubber. That means anything from current BF Goodrich street tires, to Nitto 555Rs. The stock big-block Mustang’s issue isn’t tire traction, it tends to be axle tramp (wheel hop).

        When McQueen famously (and c’mon, everything in this chase is famous now) missed his turn and had to reverse the GT, you see the axle furiously hammering at the wheelwells.

    • 0 avatar
      rocketrodeo

      Until the road started curving. I had a ’67 S-code GT fastback. They were rated 340hp gross. I never raced or timed mine in the 1/4, but it was good for hand timed low-five-second 0-60 times.

      With something better than Goodyear FR-70-14 tires and parts-store shocks, it probably could have been made to handle a bit better. But it was ridiculously nose-heavy and never pleasant in corners, or if you needed to haul it down in a hurry. I’m happy to have survived the thing and really don’t miss it a lot, unless I ponder what still owning it would have done for my retirement fund. Like the 2002tii, the Bugeye Sprite, and the 62 VW bus that I also owned at different times, it was sold for pennies on the dollar of its current value.

  • avatar
    Corollaman

    If they were to remake Bullitt, do you suppose they’ll use 2 EV’s?

  • avatar
    2drsedanman

    I suspect Barrett Jackson or Mecum can’t wait to get their hands on this one.

  • avatar
    Paragon

    As a car guy from a young age, the movie Bullitt is probably the most memorable movie of my entire life. Oh, and I do remember seeing it in the theater the first time, too. Also, The Seven Ups was another one of my favorites. The French Connection also has some pretty awesome driving scenes.

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      Those are all good, but you owe it to yourself to see “Too Live and Die in LA”. Never mind the car chase, it’s one of the greatest movies of all time.

  • avatar
    ghostwhowalksnz

    They say in nearly every chateau in northern France is claimed to be the table on which the the Edict of Nantes was signed, or maybe it was the table on which the Edict was revoked ( Sounds like Trump).
    Same goes every for fastback Mustang in Mexico was the car used it Bullit

  • avatar
    skor

    Seems to be about as credible as the story about the ‘Nazi gold train’.

    Here are the facts as concerns the Mustangs used in the Bullitt movie: The movie production company bought two identical 1968 Mustang fastbacks. One of those Mustangs was used to film the chase scene at actual high speed. That Mustang was heavily damaged during the filming of the chase scene. The car needed significant repairs throughout filming of the chase. After filming of the chase scene the Mustang used was so heavily damaged it was considered to be a total loss. The movie production company, fearing liability, did not want the car sold to anyone who might attempt to repair the car and put it back on the road. That Mustang was sent to the crusher, it no longer exists, it hasn’t existed for 50 years.

    The other Mustang, used for static scenes, was sold to a movie company employee who used it as a daily driver for a while, and then sold it to a real cop in New Jersey, who also used the car as a daily driver. The Jersey cop sold that car to a car collector in 1974. Steve McQueen tried to purchase the car from the third owner (fourth owner if you count the movie studio). McQueen’s offer was refused and he (McQueen) died a few months later from cancer. As far as anyone knows the only authentic Bullitt movie car is still owned by the third owner and or his family.

    • 0 avatar
      OldManPants

      At first glance the midbrain sees your avatar as a flaky chick in a Garbo headscarf. The eye caterpillars don’t really register at thumbnail size.

    • 0 avatar
      True_Blue

      What you cited was thought to be the case.

      It isn’t any more.

      I’d encourage you to read the thread. The car was not crushed.

      The car just found is the car that was “destroyed” by filming. It was junked. That’s the key word, *junked*. Means a lot of different things to different people – and to different scrap yards. This car was sent to be junked after the movie shoot, but whoever received the car obviously decided not to send it to the crusher. Quick repaint, a fix up a bit here or there, and voila…. a driveable car. You make more money selling a car than junking it, so it saw a new life. Several repaints and many years later, it’s finally left for dead in Baja.

      Until now.

      • 0 avatar
        skor

        I don’t believe it. Faked VIN or someone saved the original VIN and tagged another 68. The original chase scene car was very badly damaged during filming. Badly damaged as in severe structural damage. Those early Mustangs were unibody cars based on the Falcon and later Fairlane/Torino. They were flimsy things even in their day.

        • 0 avatar
          True_Blue

          ” Those early Mustangs were unibody cars based on the Falcon and later Fairlane/Torino. They were flimsy things even in their day.”

          You’re telling me things I intimately know. I own a 1968 Mustang fastback and am in the process of restoring it.

          The damage was not irreparable. The car has been verified by Kevin Marti.

          Again, do your research. The vehicle is legit and was documented as “100% positive”. Whether you choose to believe it or not, it IS the second Bullitt movie vehicle.

          • 0 avatar
            skor

            He verified the VIN plate. How much of this car was actually driven by McQueen is debatable.

            I don’t believe this is the second Bullitt car for the following reasons:

            The Bullitt Mustang is one of the holy grails of auto collectors, along with Jim Morrison’s missing Shelby GT500. People have been looking to get their hands on a real Bullitt Mustang for decades. It’s hard to believe that this car was in the hands of someone so detached from society that they allowed such a valuable thing to rot behind a shed for decades.

            Secondly, it’s seems to be more than a coincidence that this car was ‘found’ a year before the 50th anniversary of the movie, a year before Ford plans to offer a 50th year Bullitt commemorative car.

            Call me cynical if you’d like.

  • avatar
    doublechili

    The best part of those old movie car chases was when the pursuing police car would lose a hubcap and then later in the chase it would be back on the car. Modern car makers still can’t replicate that technology.

  • avatar
    OldManPants

    Hey! How come the Charger can’t be heard shifting gears a couple times every camera cut?

    Did the hit men have an AT and therefore deserve a flaming death?

  • avatar
    True_Blue

    Bill Hickman. He actually did the driving – the on-camera, not just play-acting – driving.

    You’ve seen his work in the French Connection, The Seven-Ups, and others.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    Good to hear it’s been found and will hopefully be saved, I vividly remember seeing Bullit in the theater, I wasn’t aware of the chase scene until it occurred .
    .
    I seem to recall a thread a while back that had collected links to various ‘ best ever ‘ movie chase scenes…..
    .
    Some were really obscure, I enjoyed wasting lots of time watching them .
    .
    -Nate

  • avatar

    I totally dig the 67/68 Mustang! I would agree that the chase in the movie was the coolest ever filmed at that time. Positioned the appropriate distance from the screen, one could get a bit of the actual feel of being in the car. Thanks for the article.


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