The story of Steve McQueen’s ‘Bullitt’ Mustang – and its new successor

The car wheel-spun into cinematic history. This year, a new Mustang bears the McQueen name

Last year, Steven McQueen’s son, Chad, launched an online hunt to find the iconic car his father had thrashed around the hilly streets of San Francisco in Bullitt. The holy grail of Mustangs, it turns out that after production finished on the 1968 thriller, a man named Robert Kiernan from New Jersey had bought the car for $6,000.

But Steve McQueen had known about this. Recently, Kiernan’s own son Sean restored the fifty-year old car, and displayed alongside the Mustang was a letter from the actor himself – his attempt to buy the car from Kiernan. Unfortunately for McQueen, Kiernan appeared to have been happy with his Mustang at the time, and he refused to sell it to the actor, who died three years after the letter is dated, in 1980.

Around the time McQueen passed away, the clutch broke in the car – that Kiernan’s wife used to drive to her job as a schoolteacher – and it stayed in a garage for over thirty years. Now, with 98 per cent of the original car still functioning, Ford have helped Sean Kiernan restore the car – for a very special reason.

"A new Mustang ‘Bullitt’ edition was unveiled earlier this month, modeled after the 1968 Ford Mustang 390 GT..."

A new Mustang ‘Bullitt’ edition was unveiled earlier this month, modeled after the 1968 Ford Mustang 390 GT fastback driven by McQueen’s character, Frank Bullitt. This particular set of wheels builds on the content of the Mustang GT Premium with the Performance package and includes upgrades such as Brembo six-piston front brakes, a Torsen limited-slip differential, a larger rear anti-roll bar, and a bigger radiator to keep the Bullitt’s 5.0-litre V-8 engine cool during extended chases.

But, despite this thoroughly modern engineering, the car nobs heavily in the direction of its inspiration. To channel the spirit of the original movie car, the 2019 Mustang Bullitt has been stripped of most of its exterior badges, and a single trunk-mounted badge marks the model’s connection to the film – while mimicking the design of a fuel-filler cap.

Additionally, Ford has adorned the Bullitt with chrome around its badgeless grille and window line. Red brake calipers and 19-inch wheels complete the car’s look and a white cue ball gear stick is screwed on to look just like the one Steve McQueen jammed into gear. Available in two paint colours: Highland Green, like the original movie car, and Shadow Black, the car will be going on sale for $43,990 – a little more than Mr Kiernan paid all those years ago…

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