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October 17, 1968 – Bullitt, starring Steve McQueen and a ’68 Mustang, debuts

The film Bullitt debuted on this day in 1968. In brief, I’ll let film critic Roger Ebert explain the plot, using an excerpt from his 1968 review. “McQueen plays a San Francisco cop assigned as bodyguard to a syndicate witness. The witness gets shotgunned — in the most brutally direct 10 seconds of film I can remember — and McQueen becomes a political football. Robert Vaughn (better than usual) is the politician who puts the heat on, and it’s up to McQueen to hide the victim’s body until he can untangle the case.”

Alright, so what does this have to do with cars? Besides McQueen being a professional race car driver and lover of all things with wheels, the movie’s highlight is a 10 minute car chase. This isn’t your average Hollywood burn out. It’s perhaps the best chase scene to ever grace the big screen. It begins when McQueen’s character realizes a couple hitmen, driving a 1968 Dodge Charger, are following him. McQueen’s character is behind the wheel of a fastback 1968 Ford Mustang. After flipping the script and getting behind the Charger, a pedal to the metal thrash through the streets of San Francisco takes the audience up, down and all around.

History is Driven

As the pair makes their way out of the city the hitmen pull a shotgun on McQueen. In return he rams their Charger a few times, knocking them off the road and to their demise in a fiery gas station explosion. I know my writing about the film is chase scene is thrillng… but here, just watch it:

After being hidden away for decades, the starring Mustang in Bullitt crossed the block in Kissemmee in January 2020. It hammered for more than $3.7 million after fees. Read all about it here.

The Bullitt Mustang at the Corvette and Muscle Car Nationals in 2019 before going to auction. Photo by Brian Corey