The Bullitt Mustang Heads to Mecum Kissimmee

January, 2020

 

The movie, “Bullitt,” starring Steve McQueen as a San Francisco detective, was destined to be a hit with him in the leading role.  But, little did anyone know at the time, “The King of Cool’s” co-star, a 1968 Highland Green Mustang, would be instrumental in the lasting popularity of the movie – all because of a car chase through the hilly streets of the city.   

It took two weeks to film the car chase, which was ultimately edited down to 12 minutes of intense footage that involved jumps, smoking tires, revving engines, and high-speed racing.  Of the two Mustangs used in the movie, one was destroyed during the making of the realistic-looking chase scene.  The surviving Mustang, the “Hero Car,” had a side-mounted camera to record close-ups of Steve working the stick shift and steering the car as the city scape whizzed by.  This ‘Hero Car,’ offered for sale in Kissimmee, has been verified personally by Kevin Marti to be the exact Mustang driven by Steve McQueen in the movie. 

 

“Bullitt” Hero Mustang in the Beginning

It was important to McQueen that the “automotive action scenes” in “Bullitt” be realistic in every way.  Neither he nor the movie’s director wanted camera speed-ups, but instead they insisted that there be real drivers behind the wheels of real cars.  To them, the car was a character, integral to the movie, just as the actors.  So, it was necessary to make additions and modifications to the Mustang to make it more believable, not only as a car that tough guy, Lt. Frank Bullitt, would drive, but also of being capable of chasing and evading the “bad guys.”  First of all, it had to look tougher and meaner, so the Mustang’s grille was blacked out, and the paint was scuffed to give it that “well used” look.   Of course, it goes without saying, speed and engine sounds are paramount in a “mean machine.”   So, modifications were made to the 390/325 HP big block V8 engine and its exhaust system, resulting in what is considered music to the ears of any gearhead. 

 

“Bullitt” Hero Mustang Post-Production

Like most movie props, the Mustang was sold after filming was completed. Its third owner bought it in 1974, where it has remained in the family ever since. At the time of its purchase, the car’s history was well known, but its provenance was of less importance than the new owner’s desire to drive a big block, 4-speed Mustang. For many years the Mustang was the family’s daily driver, with little thought to the fact that it was a special car that collectors would highly covet. Then in 2018, on the Mustang’s 50th anniversary, it was unveiled at the Detroit Auto Show, becoming one of the biggest news items in the collector car market for the year. Following its coming out party, the Mustang was taken on tour across the country and displayed at many high-profile automobile events. It was even featured on an episode of Jay Leno’s Garage. Along the way, it has become one of the most talked about classic Mustangs ever.

 

Steve McQueen’s Mustang

With the success of “Bullitt,” Steve McQueen developed a definite affection for the Mustang.  In 1977, he sent a letter to the car’s owner saying that he wanted to “…get back my ‘68 Mustang.” He also stated in the letter that he would like to keep the Mustang just the way it was during the filming of the movie.  Although the owners didn’t sell to McQueen, the owner did keep the car as close as possible to the way they received it in 1974, making only necessary mechanical maintenance to keep the car driveable.

McQueen was a car guy, and during filming of “Bullitt,” he took delivery of a new 1967 Ferrari 275 GTB/4.  Look close at the below photo of him and this Italian beauty, and you will see the rear quarter of “Bullitt” Mustang with its signature Torq Thrust wheels.  At a time when McQueen could afford to buy any car in the world, his 1977 letter shows he considered the Highland Green ’68 Mustang something extra special.
 

 

True to the Original “Bullitt” Mustang Only Better

Besides the Highland Green paint, it retains many of the features from its glory days during the filming of “Bullitt. Remaining are the camera mounts welded to the rockers, the welded patches covering what used to be the backup lights before McQueen had them removed, modifications for camera gear both inside and out, its custom exhaust, adhesive residue on the tachometer and even the Bondo used to repair the door after it was smashed in during the final moments of the chase scene. Recently, the Mustang received a complete engine rebuild that was faithful to the original, featuring as many original parts as could be used. Other work was done only when necessary, including replacing the carpet, front bumper and front valance.

 

“Bullitt” Hero Mustang Sale

Its next role will be auction star, as it crosses the stage at Mecum’s 2020 Kissimmee sale. The question everyone is asking – how much will it sell for? Of course, the answer to this question is anyone’s guess, but there are some data points that may provide some idea as to what the dollar amount might be when the auction gavel finally falls.

The McQueen Factor

Vehicle Sold Price
McQueen’s 1958 GMC Series 101 $92,000
McQueen’s 1970 Porsche 911S $1,375,000
McQueen’s 1967 Ferrari 275GTB/4 $10,750,000
McQueen’s 1968 Ford GT40 Lightweight (Used in Le Mans) $11,000,000

Keep in mind that in 2006, Steve McQueen’s Persol 714 sunglasses sold for $70,200.

 

Celebrity Cars and Other High Dollar Muscle Cars

Vehicle Sold Price
1967 Ford Mustang Eleanor Hero Car (“Gone in 60 Seconds”) $1,000,000
1967 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 Super Snake (Built by Carroll Shelby) $2,200,000
1965 Aston Martin DB5 (James Bond in “Goldfinger” and “Thunderball” $6,380,000
1971 Plymouth Hemi ‘Cuda Convertible $3,500,000

Note: According to Hagerty, the current value for a #1 grade 1968 Mustang 390 fastback four-speed is $96,000.

 

The Bullitt Mustang’s Value

It may be the “McQueen Factor,” the car itself, or a combination of the two that ultimately determines the final price, but since the car is listed at no reserve, the question that is on so many car enthusiasts’ minds will be soon be answered.

 

John Kraman Gives Us His Price Estimate of the “Bullitt” Mustang

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