1968 Ford Mustang GT Bullitt: McQueen in Highland Green (Pt 1)

 
 
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The 1964 Ford Mustang entered the automotive world and became an instant success, offering a fairly inexpensive and fun 210hp V8 engine inside something brand new. The Mustang found its way onto television, magazine covers, and even the head of the field at the Indianapolis 500 in its first few years. Few of those appearances would have as long lasting an impact as its cameo in the 1968 movie, Bullitt, about San Francisco cop Lieutenant Frank Bullitt (Steve McQueen) who kept the city under his thumb with the aid of his Highland Green 1968 Ford Mustang GT 390. This movie is popular due to its use of the dark green fastback as well as a late-movie chase scene throughout the extreme topography of San Francisco streets, pitting the 1968 Mustang GT against a 1968 Dodge Charger R/T driven by a pair of suspected murderers.1968 bullitt.jpg


Even with the tremendous popularity of Bullitt, Ford offered no specific "Bullitt Edition" Mustang GT; although you could order one that was basically the same. The Mustang in the movie was actually a pair of cars; fictionally a run-of-the-mill 1968 GT 390, the two cars were actually modified for easier filming and better stunt driving. Bullitt was one of the first movies to feature high speed driving scenes from inside of the vehicle, so the inner trunk had a generator mounted to power the camera and lighting equipment without drawing from the vehicle's battery. The producers wanted a stunt driver who was experienced at both driving and modifying a vehicle, so they employed race car driver and builder Max Balchowski to handle the two Bullitt Mustangs.

Modifications to the Bullitt Mustang: heavy duty shocks and springs, fender braces to handle the frequent jumps during the chase scenes, a louder exhaust, and some carburetor tuning to give the car a little more power and a lot more rumble. Though the two Mustangs were both modified, one was used more frequently for close-up shots, while the other one was the unit seen flying through the California air.  The "stunt car" was basically destroyed during filming; although there was a great deal of interest in buying this car, Warner Brothers decided that it would be best to destroy the Bullitt and avoid any liability.  The "close-up car" was left in fairly good condition and officially sold to an employee of Warner Brothers Studios sometime in 1970. This Bullitt Mustang is rumored to have then been up for sale in the Los Angeles Times for six thousand dollars and shipped off to New Jersey upon purchase. The GT later resurfaced in a 1974 issue of Road & Track, and consequently Steve McQueen himself supposedly contacted the seller in hopes of buying it but was too late. After that, the fate of the Bullitt Mustang became hazy, allegedly moved away from the New Jersey area and located some time later by a film company that offered the owner a handsome sum of money only to be rebuffed.  Since the mid-1990's attempt to purchase the car, information about the famous Mustang has dwindled to a handful of rumors.  

Mustangs would continue to appear in movies such as 1974's Gone in Sixty Seconds, which tried to topple Bullitt's famous chase scene with an almost 40 minute long chase of its own featuring a Medium Bright Yellow 1973 Ford Mustang Mach 1. But it is Bullitt that remains one of the most legendary "Car guy" movies of all time and the special Mustang GT that lies at the heart of it. It is likely that the longevity of the Bullitt popularity caused the Ford Motor Company to pay homage with a 2001 trim line devoted to the legendary Mustang.


The Bullitt, we see them now but what took so long?! Coolest looking Mustang ever? Not having a Bullitt trim available pre-2001 make you do crazy things to your Mustang? What other famous Mustangs should Ford deem worthy of a trim?

 
 
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