Released 51 years ago today, “Bullitt” created a new generation of car fans

On Oct. 17, 1968, “Bullitt” burst on to big screens across the U.S. and vaulted a 1968 GT 390 Mustang in Dark Highland Green on to bedroom walls for decades to come.

That movie, and the Mustang enthusiasts it inspired, are now more than a half-century removed from the film’s debut, which The Hollywood Reporter called “the most exciting and intelligent action films in years, probably the best good-cop film we can expect to encounter.” Bullitt’s Broadway and the San Francisco neighborhoods portrayed in the film are fundamentally different now than they were in the late-1960s, but still attract fans from all over the world.

Since the movie’s release, Ford has followed with three versions of the Ford Mustang Bullitt in 2001, 2008, and most recently in 2019.

The most-recent Mustang Bullitt returns in 2020—complete with cue ball shifter, 6-speed manual transmission, 5.0-liter V-8, 87-mm throttle body lifted from the Mustang GT350, Torq Thurst-style 19-inch wheels, and a signature exhaust sound—all for $ 48,905, including destination. 

Original 1968 Ford Mustang Bullitt

Original 1968 Ford Mustang Bullitt

Equally iconic as the car itself, Steve McQueen’s status as a legend among drivers and actors alike grew after the movie’s debut. McQueen drove through most of the film’s chase scenes—even blocking out some of the camera angles based on his experience racing cars—including parts of the iconic 10-minute chase scene with a 1968 Dodge Charger in pursuit.

When the newest Mustang Bullitt was announced at the 2018 Detroit auto show, McQueen’s niece introduced the car alongside the once-lost movie car that was purchased by Robert Kiernan Jr. for $ 6,000 in 1974. McQueen tried unsuccessfully to purchase the car back from Kiernan in a brusque note that promised a similar Mustang “if there is not too much monies involved in it.”

“Otherwise, we had better forget it,” McQueen wrote in 1977

Kiernan’s movie car (one more was uncovered recently) will head to auction next year where it’s expected to fetch millions.

But for fans of the 51-year-old movie, the memories of “Bullitt” and the hero Mustang are as good as priceless.

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