You know, it was never our intention to keep this car a secret from everybody. — Sean Kiernan, Bullitt owner
Amid talk about electric vehicles, pickups and SUVs, Ford unveiled a 2019 Mustang Bullitt at the 2018 North American International Auto Show. However, punctuating that reveal was the sound of a good, old internal combustion engine burning gasoline supplied by a carburetor. Its 390 throbbed out a familiar sound. A sound that you might have heard in a movie. It was the original 1968 Mustang from the movie Bullitt.
After passing through a couple buyers in the ’70s, this iconic Mustang became a member of the Kiernan family. It served as a driver until the clutch failed in the ’80s and then it sat parked in disrepair for years until the family patriarch Bob passed away and his son, Sean, was inspired to revive it.
“The rediscovery of the Bullitt Mustang is huge in the car world. Many people consider the chase scene featuring it to be one of the best, if not the best, car chase scenes of all time,” McKeel Hagerty, CEO of classic car insurer, Hagerty, said. “The mystery of where it’s been for 40 years only adds to its allure. There were only two Mustangs used for filming, and this was the one actually driven by Steve McQueen, the ‘King of Cool.’ Everyone probably assumed it was gone for good, and now it turns up in mostly unrestored condition, modifications made for filming, and with the original interior, including the seats McQueen himself sat in. That’s remarkable.”
Along the way to this rediscovery, Sean approached Ford back in 2016 about showing the car to the world with Ford. It just so happened that a new Bullitt was in the works, so the die was cast.
“You know, it was never our intention to keep this car a secret from everybody,” Sean said. “It just kind of happened with life. I’m just completely buzzing to join with Ford and the new Bullitt and show this car to the world on one of the biggest stages there is.”
This journey brought Sean and the car together with Steve McQueen’s granddaughter Molly, who revealed the new Bullitt to the world at NAIAS, for the video above. Her grandfather had tried to buy this car back from Sean’s dad in 1977, but the elder Kiernan loved it too much and wouldn’t part with it. It appears that Sean doesn’t want to part with it either, but if he did it would surely be worth a substantial amount.
“Valuing a vehicle that is among the most cherished movie cars of all time is difficult, if not impossible. It’s ultimately worth what someone will pay for it. Steve McQueen is such an icon in the car world, though, that we expect a lot of interest in owning it, which will increase its price, if in fact the owner sells it,” McKeel added. “We saw the same thing happen with other iconic TV and movie cars like the original Batmobile, which sold for $4.6 million in 2013, and the James Bond Aston Martin DB5, which sold for $4.1 million in 2010. It would not be surprising if the Bullitt – were it to come to auction — would be in a similar range.”
For more on this amazing story of the original Bullitt’s return, you can check out this detailed account on the Hagerty website.