Most Expensive Mustang Ever: “Bullitt” Movie Car Brings $3.74M

The 1968 Mustang GT 390, better known as the famous chase car from the 1968 movie “Bullitt,” has sold at Mecum Auctions for $3,740,000.00, including all fees.

Yes, you read that right.

This is the “hero car,” from the movie used for beauty shots and piloted by Steve McQueen. An identical Mustang used for the actual chase scenes exists and allegedly survives in Mexico.

Tucked away for years, it recently surfaced near Nashville, Tennessee. It created a gigantic commotion at Kissimmee, Florida and when the gavel fell, it brought the highest price of any Mustang to date.

Mecum explains how the former owner acquired the car.  “The late Robert Kiernan of Madison, New Jersey, had always wanted a 1968 Mustang fastback, and after seeing an ad, he bought the car. Steve McQueen himself made numerous attempts to buy the vehicle from Robert, even offering to help him find a similar Mustang, Robert had already fallen in love with it and respectfully declined all offers.

“In its early years with the Kiernan family, the Mustang was used as a daily driver by Robert’s wife, who taught at a nearby school, but when the car’s clutch went out in 1980, it was moved into the garage with just 65,000 miles on the odometer. In the years that followed, the car would move several times, first to Cincinnati with the family in 1984, and then to a friend’s home in Kentucky when the family moved to Florida in 1994. A year later, the Mustang rejoined the family when the Kiernans moved to their new farm in Nashville.

“And that’s where it sat up until 2001, when Ford’s introduction of a Bullitt Mustang GT inspired the then-retired Robert and his son, Sean Kiernan, to start putting some work into the car—not enough to alter the history, but just enough to make it drivable once again. However, after work began on the Mustang, Robert was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and work stalled. When Ford introduced a second Bullitt edition in 2008, the pair was once again inspired to have the engine rebuilt, but once again, life got in the way; as Robert’s Parkinson’s worsened, maintaining the farm and horses became a more important task for Sean.

“Sadly, Robert would never see the Mustang reach completion, as he passed suddenly in 2014. With his father’s death, Sean found renewed purpose in the mission they had started years before, and he went on to complete the work and return the Bullitt Mustang to roadworthy condition, unveiling it to the general public alongside Ford’s third Bullitt Edition Mustang at the Detroit Auto Show in early 2018.”

The car is a textbook example of the word “patina” and retains many notable modifications from the movie.” It was recently entered into the National Historic Vehicle Register, presented in highly original condition.

“In addition to its Highland Green paintwork, the Bullitt Mustang retains many of the “fingerprints” from its time in front of the camera, including 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 in the trunk, 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. 

“As the Kiernans’ goal all along was to retain the Mustang in as untouched condition as possible, the completed engine rebuild is factory-faithful, featuring as many original parts as Sean and his father could conceivably use, and other work was done only by absolute necessity, including replacing the carpet, front bumper, and front valance.”

The obvious question is, what are the new owner’s plans for the car? We say this car should never be restored. It’s a sacred piece of celluloid and automotive history and now an artifact from a bygone era. When the idea of restoring the car came up in the office bullpen this afternoon, most agreed its value lies in its unrestored state.  We hope this Mustangs new “shephard” understands this and preserves the car for future generations.

The next question is, what are the former owners going to do with the millions?

Article Sources

About the author

Dave Cruikshank

Dave Cruikshank is a lifelong car enthusiast and an Editor at Power Automedia. A zealous car geek since birth, he digs lead sleds, curvy fiberglass, kustoms and street rods. He currently owns a '95 Corvette, '76 Cadillac Seville, '99 LS1 Trans Am and big old Ford Van.
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