Original Bullitt Mustang sells for $3.4 million at auction
The car that featured in what for many is the best movie car chase of all time, the Ford Mustang GT from Bullitt, has sold at auction in the US for $3.4 million – a thousand times what the car originally cost.
The GT390 Fastback is pretty much as it was when raced around the streets of San Francisco, providing a defining moment in automotive action sequences that still rules supreme 52 years later.
The new owner of the world’s most famous Mustang? Whoever it is, they are keeping quiet, for now at least. The car – which we last saw at the Festival of Speed presented by Mastercard at Goodwood in 2018 – crossed the block in front of a huge crowd at the mega Mecum collector car auction in Kissimmee in Florida on Friday 10th January 2020.
The 1968 Mustang’s provenance is almost as well pored over as the car chase itself. One of two Mustangs used in the movie, it was specced up, and driven by, the ‘King of Cool’ Steve McQueen, playing the steely Lt Frank Bullitt.
McQueen chose a GT390 Fastback in Highland Green with S-code 390 CI (cubic inch) four-barrel carburettor V8 and four-speed manual transmission. This is the car that appears in most of the iconic action scenes as it chases the bad guys in a Dodge Charger up, down and around the hilly streets of San Francisco.
After filming, the $3,500 car was sold to a Warner Bros employee and then to a real-life detective who a few years later in 1974 put the following ad in the for sale pages of Road & Track magazine:
“1968 ‘Bullett’ (sic) Mustang, driven by McQueen in the movie… Can be documented. Best offer.”
Robert Kiernan of New Jersey came up with the best offer, $6,000, and the car stayed in the Kiernan family for the next 40 years, Robert refusing to sell it even to McQueen. McQueen’s letter pleading to be reunited with his beloved Mustang was included in the sale, among a mass of documentation.
The Kiernans used the Mustang as a daily driver but when the clutch went it was left sitting in a garage. That was in 1984 and it wasn’t until 2018 that an on-off mission to get it drivable again was completed, spurred on by Ford’s high-profile marketing of latterday Bullitt Mustang special editions – and a rapidly increasing value for the real thing.
The Kiernans’ goal was to retain the Mustang in as untouched condition as possible, hence its superb originality today, along with that well-used look. The reborn car was unveiled alongside Ford’s third Bullitt Edition Mustang at the Detroit Auto Show in early 2018, the pair coming to Goodwood for the Festival of Speed later that year.
At $3.4m (£2.62m) the Bullitt car is the most expensive Mustang ever and among the most valuable movie star cars, although in the automotive cinematic stakes James Bond still has it over Lt Frank Bullitt – 007’s Aston Martin DB5 sold for $4.5m.