A Mustang Made in Hollywood
Celebrating 50 years of the iconic Steve McQueen movie.
Written byBrian Douglas
When Ford management recently announced the end of most of its passenger car models to free up production for SUVs, Mustang was easily a survivor. In fact, Ford hints of expanding the popular pony into non-sports coupe and convertible segments. And why not? The model, with its galloping stallion, has struck a chord with the public as well as created its own stardom on the silver screen.
The first Bullitt Mustang showed up in 2001 as an enhanced version of that year’s Mustang GT.
The Authentic Car Chase
High-performance variants of the Mustang, especially for car-chase scenes, have long been a Hollywood staple. In the 1971 production of Diamonds Are Forever, Sean Connery’s James Bond races around Las Vegas in a Mustang Mach 1, leaping over cars in one scene and executing a two-wheel pass in a narrow alley in another. One of my personal favorites is the chase scene in Hollywood Homicide where detective and part-time real estate agent Harrison Ford tries to close a sale in the passenger seat of a Saleen Mustang driven by Josh Hartnett.
Perhaps the zaniest car chase movie featuring a Mustang was the original 1974 Gone in 60 Seconds, written, produced, and directed by its star, H.B. “Toby” Halicki. An eye-popping 127 cars were destroyed or damaged, 93 of them in an epic 40-minute chase scene. Halicki did his own stunt driving, including a harrowing 110mph crash, and reportedly finished the film in a full leg cast with broken ribs and compacted vertebrae. And the Mustang GT in this sub-B movie ended up just as damaged as the actor.
Computer animation (CGI) has removed much of the threat of serious injury and expensive car demolition from contemporary film work, but the technique is often overused. Cars flying through the air in the Fast and Furious franchise are like fight scenes in The Matrix movie—in a word, unbelievable. In vivid contrast, in Bullitt’s 10-minute chase scene, the driving is real and Frank Keller’s editing won an Oscar. So when Ford picked a movie to create a car model, they made the right choice.
The original car, famous for being driven by Steve McQueen, is estimated to be worth at least $4 million.
Mustang’s Third Bullitt
This isn’t the first Bullitt Mustang; that honor is held by the fourth-generation “Fox-4” model offered in 2001. Ford sold 5,582 of these special editions, mostly in the Dark Highland Green color of the movie original, but the soft styling didn’t really connect with McQueen’s 1968 GT.
Ford dramatically revised the Mustang in 2005 with a new platform and a look that design chief J Mays labeled “retro-futurism,” and the result mimicked the 1968 version. The new-old style was perfect for a 40-year Bullitt celebration and that model enjoyed a two-year run. Most of us thought that was the last gasp for the movie-created Mustang.
The new 2018 Bullitt, Ford’s 50-year tribute to the classic film, is certainly unprecedented in the niche model category. Imagine Aston Martin creating successive James Bond versions of its sports cars, even though their brand is synonymous with the long-running movie franchise. I wondered about the viability of this latest Bullitt, right up to the time I saw it in the metal, drove it, and witnessed the public’s reaction.
The Bullitt interior includes model-specific cues such as green accent stitching throughout its leather-lined interior, a white cue-ball-style shift lever, and a special “welcome” graphic within the car’s 12.0-inch digital gauge cluster.
In its sixth, and current, generation, the Mustang has improved in every measure, from more power yet improved fuel economy to crisp handling and interior refinement. The galloping pony that started Detroit’s sports coupe phenomenon and is still sales leader over its rivals Camaro and Challenger, loves to create offspring, including Shelby versions, to retain consumer interest.
The new Bullitt appears to be just the right combination of design purity and performance enhancements to succeed at its job of brand enhancement. The sculpted body sheds the pony except for diminutive hubcaps in the wheel centers, while a BULLITT logo handles the branding task on the trunk lid within a chrome faux filler cap.
Price of Bullitt admission begins at $47,495 with freight, a $7,240 premium over the GT Premium model, and enhancements include a bit more horsepower (480 vs. 460), suspension tweaks, red Brembo brakes, and those cool 19-inch spoke wheels. Our test vehicle added Recaro leather seats, B&O PLAY sound, and other options to hit $52,980msrp. That puts this Mustang right between the GT and Shelby 350, a place Ford is sure will be just right.
Shortly after the new 2005 Mustang was launched, talk of reintroducing a Bullitt edition was rampant among enthusiasts. The 2008 Mustang Bullitt was a thoroughly modern take on the original movie car legend.
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