The iconic 1968 classic Bullitt starring Steve McQueen will celebrate its 50th Anniversary this year, and the Ford Motor Company has something special planned to honor this classic. Bullitt features arguably one of the most famous car chases of all time, with Steve McQueen's title character racing through the streets of San Francisco. While the original car was thought to be lost for decades, it turns out that it was hiding in a New Jersey garage. At the North American International Auto Show yesterday, Ford unveiled the original 1968 car used in Bullitt, along with a brand new 50th Anniversary Bullitt Mustang that will be available to purchase this summer.
There were two identical 1968 Ford Mustang fastbacks, painted in Highland Green, used for the production, with one car used for several of the car jump scenes during the iconic 10-minute car chase, and the other "hero" car that was driven by Steve McQueen himself. The "jumper" car was discovered in a Baja, Mexico salvage yard last year, and many thought that the hero car had simply been lost to history, but it had been sitting in a New Jersey garage for the past few decades. Warner Bros. sold the "hero" car to a studio executive who briefly kept it before selling it to a New York police detective, who had the car shipped to the Big Apple where he kept it for three and a half years, before selling it to Sean Kiernan's father Robert Kiernan, a New Jersey insurance executive, in 1974. The Kiernan's used the car for several years, adding more than 30,000 miles to its odometer. In 1977, Steve McQueen himself had tracked down the owner and called him in an effort to buy the car back. Here's what Sean Kiernan had to say.
"Dad had owned the car for three years at that point. And he got a phone call from Steve asking about the car, how it was, if he'd changed anything on it. And McQueen said, 'I would really like to buy it if there's not too much involved with it. I'll replace it with a similar, like kind of car. As long it's not a crazy amount of money.' But dad declined. He said, 'Thanks, but no thanks.' I think a week later, a letter to my dad arrived from McQueen and it had the Solar [McQueen's production company] letterhead and stamp on it. And it said, basically, 'I'd love to talk to you again about purchasing my car back, if not too much money is involved. Otherwise we'd better forget it.' And dad never reached out, he did forget it. And that was kind of the end of that."
After Robert Kiernan died in 2014, Sean Kiernan inherited the car and decided to use the 50th Anniversary of Bullitt to make the car "road-worthy" again. Ford debuted a new video where Steve McQueen's granddaughter, Molly McQueen, meets Sean Kiernan, who reveals that he has kept everything original on the car from the past 50 years. The car will be inducted into the Historic Vehicle Association roster, which is similar to the National Register of Historic Places, only for cars, with this Mustang fastback set to be just the 21st classic car ever inducted.
Ford also debuted two more videos that showcase the new Mustang Bullitt, commemorating the 50th Anniversary of Bullitt, one of which features Molly McQueen using this new vehicle for her own Bullitt-esque chase scene, through a parking garage. As a special-edition model due out this summer, the all-new Mustang Bullitt is equipped with a manual transmission, and the gear shifter features a white cue ball shift knob as a nod to the original. Other standard equipment includes a heated leather steering wheel and a 12-inch all-digital LCD instrument cluster, identical in function to the cluster introduced on 2018 Mustang, but with a unique Bullitt welcome screen that starts in green with an image of the car rather than the pony. Exterior paint choices are limited to Shadow Black and the classic Dark Highland Green, as worn in the movie. Other features that pay tribute to the car McQueen drove are subtle chrome accents around the grille and front windows, classic torque thrust 19-inch aluminum wheels, red painted Brembo brakes, and a unique black front grille. Inside and out, the vehicle uses minimal badging; only the circular faux gas cap Bullitt logo on the rear center is visible on the exterior. The leather-trimmed interior features unique green accent stitching on the dashboard, door panels, center console and seats. Take a look at these videos below, and head over to Vanity Fair for their full report on this amazing true story.