2019 Bullitt Mustang at NAIAS

Ford unveiled the new 2019 Bullitt Mustang to mark the 50th anniversary of the 1968 Mustang GT390 that Steve McQueen turned into an icon in the film Bullitt (1968). Dark Highland green paint job, stripped down, tuned exhausted, and 475hp will separate from other Ford branded ponies.

I certainly hope I get a chance to review the 2019 Bullitt Mustang this year. Shame there aren’t many steep hills in South Texas.

This is great news for anyone who’s a fan of Mustangs, Steve McQueen, or the film. However, I was more interested in the original Bullitt Mustang that unveiled as well. Not the one that was discovered in Mexico last year. That was the stunt car, the one used for the jumps and heavy duty driving.

This Mustang is the star-car. The one you see McQueen driving in the film. The one McQueen tried to buy back, several times, and failed. The one that got away. After being in hiding for over three decades its back and sporting a beautiful shade of patina, and 90% of its original parts!

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Photographer Casey Maxson, Hagerty.com

Hagerty was able to get the full story on how this car managed to stay a myth for all these years.

The Man Who Said No to Steve McQueen

After the film wrapped up the two Mustangs parted ways. The stunt car was sent to the crusher, and ended up in Mexico. The star car was repaired, quickly, and went through several owners before ending up in a horse farm (fitting) in the Southeast. First owner was a New Jersey police detective named Frank Marranca (wonder if he ever chased suspects in a black charger?) who purchased the car from the studio in 1971.

Bob Kiernan, the man who said no to Steven McQueen, was the 3rd owner in the late 70’s. In 1977, Steven McQueen made a last ditch attempt to buy his co-star Mustang. He wrote a brief letter to Mr. Kiernan.

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Photo provided by Hagerty.com & Sean Kiernan

Simply Personal

Any letter that starts with “Again” is a hint of persistence. Steve McQueen wanted his Mustang back, like so many of us have often wished, desired, yearned, for a car or truck from our past. Any clues to how badly McQueen wanted the Mustang can be seen in the four sentence letter to Mr. Kiernan.

McQueen offers to buy Kiernan a replaced Mustang in exchange for his. Writing that he wants to keep it in the family, in its original state. Stating that it’s “simply personal” to him. Kiernan never responded to the letter.

In era where people form opinions depending on how fast they’re Wi-Fi is, it’s easy to judge Bob Kienan. To write him off as being selfish for not returning the Mustang, or even responding to a letter from the King of Cool. But, we all have our reasons for the things we do that don’t make sense to others.

It’s not our place to say what someone does with a car they purchased fair and square. What’s important is that the car is alive, firing on all cylinders, and in the public eye once more.

Bob Kiernan passed away in 2014 leaving his farm and Mustang to his son Sean. At the time, the Mustang had been sitting in their garage in a project state since 2001. In 1980, same year McQueen passed away, the clutch went out and the Mustang was put away in the garage. Anyone with a project car slowly turning into a shelf in the garage understands how time consuming life can be.

Return to the Big Screen?

What made Sean Kiernan finish the Mustang, ironically, was Hollywood. A script for a possible barn-find movie that would star the Bullitt Mustang. Getting the Mustang in public view is the best marketing tool for attracting investors. This was shortly before news of the stunt-car Bullitt Mustang started hitting webpages. Timing can be the best screen writer sometimes.

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What makes this Mustang physically different than another green ’68 Fastback? A lot of the modifications for the film are still in the car. Steel tubs under the rockers to support camera rigs, with holes in the trunk to pass cables to a generator in order to run those cameras. Left over glue on the tach to mark redline, and modified exhaust for the film are still in the car.

The Mustang has that perfect shade of patina of car that looks its age without driving like it. Luck has definitely been tucked between the seats on this car.

Get the Full Story on Hagerty

Larry Webster wrote the full story on this Bullitt Mustang, and all credit for photography goes to Casey Maxson. Read, in detail, just how Sean came to spilling the beans on his secret pony that lead to us seeing it this weekend. Check it out on Hagerty.com

Video below was done by Hagerty as a teaser trailer for an upcoming documentary on this legendary Mustang.

Why is the Bullitt Mustang So Important? (For Anyone Who Doesn’t Know)

If you call yourself a car-guy, car-girl, gearhead, etc. and don’t know what the Bullitt Mustang is then you’re better off doing a quick Google search, or keeping it to yourself. Not knowing Bullitt Mustang is like never listening to the Beatles and saying you’re into music. Ford fans might go as far as saying its blasphemy to not know about this Forest Green legend.

Why? Because it’s a 1968 Mustang GT390 fastback were talking about, arguably one of the best looking pony cars ever built. A Mustang that starred in the 1968 crime film Bullitt starring the King of Cool, Steve *Expletive McQueen. Need more reasons? How about that this Mustang was involved in cinematic history, alongside a 1968 black Dodge Charger R/T, by filming one of the greatest car chases ever.

The main reason why it’s coveted as being a great chase scene is simple. Nobody had ever done a scene like it before. Real cars, real stunts, and no background music. Cameras inside the vehicles to capture the drivers sawing at the wheel and plopping into their seats after a car-jump. It set the benchmark for how a great car chase should look, feel, and sound. Genesis.

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