While Americans were busy scratching their heads over how to manage a Very Covid Christmas, Ford was producing the final examples of the Mustang Bullitt. Modeled after the Mustang GT driven by Lt. Frank Bullitt (Steve McQueen) in the 1968 American action thriller that shares the lead character’s last name, the Bullitt tends to hit the market whenever Ford feels the itch.
For its third incarnation, the automaker decided the 2019-2020 model years were enough and had previously hinted that the model would be supplanted by an updated Mach 1. That unit has since been confirmed for 2021, taking the best components in the Mustang lineup to build a solid performer that’s economical to produce. But it didn’t leave any room for the Bullitt, with Mustang spokesperson Berj Alexanian confirming to Ford Authority that the final batch left Flat Rock Assembly right around the time we published our last review on the throwback coupe.
To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the movie Bullitt, starring Steve McQueen, Ford is reviving the special edition Bullitt Mustang. This is the third time Ford has modified a Mustang to honor McQueen’s ride in the movie.
For this Mustang, there are two important factors that determine if it will be successful. First, obviously, it has to be a good car. Second, it has to be a car that makes you feel like Steve McQueen, or at least Frank Bullitt, when you’re driving it.
We hit up the streets of San Francisco, which was where the movie and the iconic car-chase scene were filmed, to see if it really will make you feel like Bullitt McQueen.
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.
While Ford hasn’t announced the pricing of the new Bullitt Mustang, the first example just sold for three-hundred grand at auction. We’re presuming future production models will be considerably more affordable because, damn, that’s a lot to spend on an appearance package and a few extra horses — even if the end result is undeniably cool.
Fortunately, all the proceeds went to supporting the Boys Republic — a charity near and dear to Steve McQueen. In addition to being remanded to the school after his own mother signed a court order that he was “incorrigible,” a matured McQueen often visited its children during the holidays and frequently donated large sums of money to the organization.
For the 2017 model year, Ford decided to discontinue the color green in the Mustang’s paint palette. Called “Guard,” the tone was a faintly metallic deep green and it was as savory to the eyes as it was rare to see on the street. Fortunately, the automaker is returning the hue to its pony car for 2018. However, it looks like it will only be available on a special edition model known as the “Bullitt” — meaning Steve McQueen’s green machine is also making a return to the lineup.
While not the same 1968 Ford Mustang 390 GT fastback from the titular film, Ford has twice offered homage editions of contemporary models. The first movie-inspired Mustang arrived in 2001, with a second launching in 2008.
Earlier this year, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson posted a video highlighting his role as Ford’s new brand ambassador, with sketches of the current-generation green Mustang adorned with Bullitt-like trappings seen in the background. It was a clever publicity stunt and we figured it was just a matter of time before the automaker made an announcement.
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.
Steve McQueen’s 1976 Porsche 911 Turbo Carrera fetched $1.95 million at auction, according to Hemmings Daily.
The specially ordered, air-cooled turbo Porsche had a few cool factory features including dual mirrors, limited-slip differential, black leather buckets and the original tag with McQueen’s custom-ordered slate gray color still riveted to the door jamb.
Considering a fine 1976 Porsche 930 with 64,000 miles on the clock went for nearly $300,000, I figured the auction for charity of McQueen’s car would fetch around the same.
I’m wrong. I can admit that to you now.
The last car the King of Cool custom-ordered will be up for sale next month in Monterey, California.
Mecum Auctions (via Autoblog) details the 1976 Porsche 930 Turbo Carrera (sold here with the internal type number — 930 — in its name) that McQueen ordered shortly before he died. The 3.0-liter, air-cooled turbo 911 will be sold for charity, with proceeds going to Boys Republic, a nonprofit school for at-risk teenagers in Chino Hills, California.
According to Mecum, the car was fitted with a switch to kill the rear lights if McQueen was being chased down Mulholland. That’s so cool.
Racing Fans Look Forward to
Frankenheimer's Grand Prix Paul Newman's Winning LeMans With Steve McQueen Ron Howard's Rush
The people running the low key publicity campaign for director Ron Howard’s upcoming Formula One based film Rush have done their job well, at least as far as car enthusiasts are concerned. Howard’s an A-list and very bankable director with a string of critical and commercial successes so it will be interesting to see how general audiences, as opposed to racing fans, respond to the movie. Since plenty of folks who weren’t space buffs enjoyed Howard’s Apollo 13, I don’t think that will be a problem. If you’ve seen Apollo 13 then you know that Howard is a stickler for authenticity. Howard has made sure that car blogs and the like have been teased with tweeted cheesecake shots of umbrella girls and information about how realistic the racing footage will be in the movie, centered on the 1976 rivalry between playboy James Hunt and methodical Niki Lauda. The theatrical opening of Rush is scheduled for September but the film’s official trailer has now been released. You can’t tell a book by its cover nor a movie by its trailer but it does look promising. It also looks kind of familiar, there’s a sense of deja vu about it.
Terrence Steven McQueen was born to a stunt pilot father and an alcoholic mother on this day in 1930. His father left them both halfway to Steve’s first birthday. In the ensuing years he would find a home on his Uncle’s farm in Indiana, be moved to Indianapolis and L.A. where he was shipped off to a Junior Republic by an abusive stepfather, lumberjack, be a Marine guard for President Harry Turman’s yacht and become the highest paid movie star in the world.
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