Steve McQueen, the actor and race car driver, will forever be known as a legend. Something else will also be synonymous with Steve too, his 1968 Ford Mustang GT. This muscle car will also be forever known for something, for featuring in the most iconic and thrilling car chase scenes in cinema classic, Bullitt. The image of McQueen, cigarette in mouth, firing up the car, dust blowing in the air, chasing the Dodge Charger down San Francisco streets, was breathtaking.
It was a car attached to McQueen, figuratively and spiritually but the original owner ended up selling it to a man called Robert Kiernan. There, the Mustang was gone, to a stranger that McQueen took years to track down. Long, thought to be forever lost in a junkyard, Steve discovered the owner’s whereabouts. He called Robert on the phone for months before eventually writing a desperate letter to plea for his long lost car that meant so much. Robert never sold him that car.
The cherished Mustang, was used regularly for daily shopping before sitting in a garage for 35 years, never to be reunited with its true owner, the driver who made it famous. Three years after writing that letter, Steve died of cancer, linked to asbestos but the Mustang, lives on.
Robert’s son went on to inherit the car, he then preserved it but any restoration. The legendary yet rusty, dirty and breaking apart muscle car, eventually sold for a whopping $4.9 million in its original condition, exactly as intended. Not bad for a car bought from a magazine for $3,500. It now resides somewhere in Florida to an unidentified owner, the same way it got lost the first time.
“The Mustang in it’s iconic Highland Green paint, encapsulated what muscle car enthusiasts love, danger, mystique and power.”
The car in it’s iconic Highland Green paint, encapsulated what muscle car enthusiasts love, danger, mystique and power. The 1968 Mustang offered that in spades, and then some. Its massive 6.4 litre V-8 engine powered by 330 horsepower, could turn heads on a dime. The sound from the exhaust could make ears ring for minutes. Just don’t expect it to handle like Porsche, the Mustang was built for straight line speed.
The Dodge Charger though, was actually faster, so in the film, they modified much of the original Mustang. The engine was rebuilt with race equipment, the suspension was given Koni Shocks, Helwig Stabilizers for the front and rear brakes and improved reinforced shock mounts and new cross beam support bar were added. All this resulted in a faster and better handling Mustang to keep up with it’s nemesis Charger.
The Bulitt Mustang had so much character, from the day it was filmed to the moment it was sold, it was a car rich in integrity and charisma. The Mustang’s grit screams through the exhaust pipe in effort to be heard. It might be the only car in the world that can be sold at that price and have rusty metal, glue residue on the dashboard and dirty wheels. But thats exactly what appeals to car aficionado’s. Its all part of the story, a tale of a legendary muscle car that was estranged from its famous race driver.
Its really a shame for McQueen to never be reunited with his baby but the owner and his family had every right to not give the prized vehicle up. They bought it fair and square, and for a bargain and a half, too. The Bullitt Mustang was never meant to be a fairy tale car, it was a mysterious and elusive heart breaker, exactly the way it was supposed to be.