One of the two 1968 Ford Mustang GTs used in the iconic Steve McQueen film, Bullitt is heading to the auction block in 2020.
The car, the only one of the two used in the film to survive the production, will be offered at no reserve at the Mecum Auction in Kissamee, Florida. The event will take place from January 2-12, 2020 at the Osceola Heritage Park.
Hidden away for decades until its public reveal back in 2018, the car has not been restored and will be sold in the condition that it ended up in after production of the movie wrapped.
During Bullitt’s pre-production, director Peter Yates and star Steve McQueen agreed that the film should have an “automotive action scene” that should be realistic in every way. No camera tricks or driverless cars would be used.
To achieve that vision, Warner Brothers Pictures procured two Highland Green 1968 Mustang GT Fastbacks from the Ford Motor Company with sequential serial numbers. Both cars were identical in equipment and options, including 390 cubic inch, big-block V8s, good for 325 horsepower, mated to four-speed manual transmissions.
The cars were sent to Max Balchowsky, a fabricator and racecar driver, who, at McQueen’s direction, modified the Mustangs to ensure that they could endure what was required of them.
The Mustang’s suspensions and pickup points were reinforced to survive jumps on the hills of San Francisco, where the movie was to be filmed. Koni adjustable shocks were fitted, and numerous camera mounts, both inside and out, were added to the cars.
McQueen was very particular about the look he wanted for his character’s ride. He had Balchowsky remove the cars’ badging and backup lights, paint numerous chrome elements black or Highland Green, and swap the stock wheels for gray American Racing Torq Thrust wheels. The Mustang’s grilles were also blacked out, and the paint was dulled to give it a well-worn appearance.
The engines were modified for both speed and sound, and included modifications to the cylinder heads, a resetting of the carburetors, and the addition of electronic ignitions. The stock mufflers were replaced with straight pipe.
During the course of production, one of the cars was trashed to the point where it was deemed unrepairable, and was reportedly scrapped, leaving the second Mustang, the as the sole survivor.
Following production, the survivor was sold to a Warner Brothers employee who used it as a daily commuter, documented by the Warner Bros. parking sticker that still exists on the right corner of the windshield.
The car was subsequently sold several times, until becoming the property of Robert Kiernan of Madison, New Jersey. Kiernan rejected multiple offers for the car from Steve McQueen, and kept the car till his passing in 2014.
Kirnan’s son then took it upon himself to return the car to top roadworthy condition without significantly changing its aesthetic condition. He then unveiled it to the world at the Detroit Auto Show in early 2018.
Today, the Bullitt Mustang retains most of its scars and modifications from its time as a star of the silver screen, including the camera mounts, the custom exhaust, adhesive residue on the tachometer and even the Bondo used to repair the door after it was damaged during the filming of the chase scene.
Few cars can claim to have reached the level of rarity and collectability as this iconic car, perhaps the most famous in movie history. Once thought to have been lost to the passage of time, the Bullitt Mustang is now considered more that just a car, and instead, a bona-fide piece of pop-culture art.