There are some cars that just leave a mark on society. Then there’s the 1968 Ford Mustang driven by Steve McQueen in the film Bullitt. It left a fat rubber streak that stretched across San Francisco and all the way to Kissimmee, Florida, where it sold for $3,740,000 at Mecum Auctions on this day in 2020. What made this Mustang so cool, besides being driven by the King of Cool himself? For one, it set the standard for Hollywood car chases. The ten minute chase through the hills of SF saw McQueen outracing a Dodge Charger R/T driven by a pair of dubious hit men. Second, the car itself is bad, in the best way possible. Watch the chase scene here. Article continues below.
What is the Bullitt Mustang?
The star car of the movie Bullitt is a Highland Green 1968 Ford Mustang GT Fastback with a 390/325 HP big-block V-8 and 4-speed transmission. The studio actually sourced two identical vehicles with serial VINs. The cars then underwent some performance upgrades, including enhanced suspension. They each received numerous camera mounts as well.
What happened to the hero car remained a bit of a mystery until it was unearthed in 2018. Here’s Mecum Auction‘s account of history of the Bullitt Mustangs:
Following its movie debut, the 1968 Mustang GT hero car—this car—was sold to Robert Ross, a Warner Bros. employee who used it as a commuter, documented by the Warner Bros. parking sticker on the bottom right corner of the windshield. The other Mustang stunt car was deemed unrepairable and reportedly scrapped.* The hero car then found its way to New Jersey and into the hands of Detective Frank Marranca, who bought the car from the studio in 1970 with confirmation from Warner Bros. that certified the Mustang had indeed been purchased for use in the movie. As Marranca’s family grew, he eventually put the hero car up for sale. The ad in the October 1974 issue of “Road & Track” that the late Robert Kiernan responded to simply read, “1968 ‘Bullett’ MUSTANG driven by McQueen in the movie…Can be documented. Best offer.”
The late Robert Kiernan of Madison, New Jersey, had always wanted a 1968 Mustang fastback, and after seeing the ad, he picked up the hero car for $6,000.*Some people claim to be restoring it, but its debatable. A story for another day!
Bullitt Mustang Sale
McQueen himself tracked the car to Kiernan and made numerous offers to recover it, but all received rejection. The Kiernan family used the car as a daily driver until the clutch went out with 65,000 miles on the clockin 1980. It would move around the country with the family until ending up in their barn in Nashville, TN in 1994. It remained there until 2001 when Ford unveiled a Bullitt edition Mustang, inspiring the Kiernan’s to get their car back on the road. Unfortunately Robert Kiernan was diagnosed with Parkinson’s and he never saw the car get back on the road. After his passing in 2014, his son Sean decided once and for all to get it going again. In 2018, it made its public debut, alongside the 2018 Bullitt Mustang, at that year’s Detroit Auto Show.
Following its immaculate reception, Sean decided it was time to pass it on to its next caretaker. The car was consigned to Mecum and crossed the block in Kissimmee. The $3.74 million dollar hammer price (including fees and commissions) is the most ever paid for an American muscle car, and rightfully so. However, the mystery continues. The buyer was a phone bidder and only one person, a Mecum employs, knows who was on the other end. What is known is that it is not being restored, and that’s a good thing. (Photos via www.mecum.com)