Automotive collectibles emerge from pop culture all the time, but this particular auction item can be assured of stratospheric bids. It’s an icon, one that’s thrilled generations of audiences for 51 years, ever since San Francisco’s nattily-dressed Lieutenant Frank Bullitt spotted a suspicious black Dodge Charger in the rear-view of his Highland Green 1968 Ford Mustang 390 fastback.
Two identical Mustangs went into the Holy Grail of all movie car chases, but only one remains in drivable condition (the subject of this story didn’t have to endure the suspension-twisting jumps). Ford pressed both it and Steve McQueen’s granddaughter into service during the 2018 Detroit auto show, using the historical eye candy as a backdrop to its launch of the new Bullitt edition ‘Stang.
Come 2020, the actual Bullitt Mustang will change hands. Who the lucky bastard is who gets behind the wheel remains to be seen.
It’s odd to consider, but in a world where Steve McQueen had never lived I’d be about three dozen serious injuries better off than I am today. Scratch that. I don’t need him to have never lived. I just need him to have not supported the production of “On Any Sunday.”
That film romanticizes the Elsinore GP, which in turn led me to enter the Elsinore GP, which led me to break my leg training for the Elsinore GP, which led me to record a big fat DNS for the Elsinore GP. Worse than that, however, the opening sequence of “On Any Sunday” is commonly understood to be the catalyst for the sport of bicycle motocross, which has treated me worse than Ike Turner treated Tina.
Not that I bear any grudge against the man, mind you. I do, however, have complete and abiding contempt for the consumer-driven culture of McQueen worship that has arisen in the past 20 years or so. If you wear Hunsiker McQueen shoes or a McQueen T-shirt, or if you repeat the “Racing is life” line from LeMans like it was someone’s actual philosophy and not just a line written for an actor on a set, I’m going to think less of you. It’s not because McQueen was a vile person at times, although it is worth noting that his behavior often went past the rambunctious into the just plain despicable. It is because while boys and teenagers need heroes to admire and emulate, grown men shouldn’t wear another man’s face or name on their bodies if they can help it. Period, point blank.
Last week, Ford introduced a new “ Bullitt Mustang” with the help of McQueen’s lovely granddaughter, Molly Flattery dba Molly McQueen. I have to say that I like everything about the car but the new-for-2019 nose, which is uncomfortably catfish-esque, and the “Bullitt” logos. As was the case the last two times a Bullitt Mustang appeared, there’s been a revival of interest in the movie. My wife had never seen it, so we watched “Bullitt” this past Friday night. Shortly afterwards, I read a Jalopnik piece by Raphael Orlove describing the movie as “boring garbage.”
It seems like the right time to take a look at the film without Gulf-colored lenses or Millennial-ish suspicion, so let’s open the curtain on another episode of TTAC At The Movies, shall we? Warning: spoilers ahead for those of you who haven’t managed to catch the film in the past 49 years.
Now it can be told: Perhaps the most cringe-worthy moment of my life was my own “Affluenza” episode, otherwise known as “The Time I Wrote A Poem About Not Getting A BMW 2002 For Christmas.”
I was eighteen years old and busy failing to fulfill my potential at university. I was already on my second car, the infamous Red Marquis, having unceremoniously crashed my 200SX on my first unsupervised day as a temporary-license holder. During one of our brief telephone conversations that fall, my father asked me some questions about “old BMWs,” with particular focus on the 2002. My fevered imagination had grasped that straw and run with it until I was honestly surprised to get two sweaters and a couple of shirts on the blessed morning of the 25th.
I went back to school early so I could mope in private and write a poem about it, the worst couplets of which I’ve retrieved from memory for your amusement:
I’ve stumbled down a deep and dangerous rabbit hole, and it all started with a jerk nearly hitting me. The jerk in question was driving a tuned SN95 Mustang, swerving in and out of lanes on the interstate without signals, and timed his maneuver around my slow van poorly.
It was hard to stay angry, however, as he dropped a gear and the Modular V-8 snarled enticingly. I drove home and opened up some browser tabs. And more. And more still. As I write, I have twenty tabs open, filled with cars for sale, suspension setup tips, and performance parts catalog houses.
I need help. Or winning lottery numbers. That’d be just as good.
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