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The Original Bullitt Mustang Goes To Auction This January

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Bullitt-Mustang

By Dave Ashton

If you’re a fan of the Steve McQueen movie Bullitt, but was never really enamored with the reproduction models, then you now have a chance to own the original. The long kept, out of public sight original is now coming up for sale at Mecum on Jan. 2-12, 2020 and will obviously attract a lot of attention from both movie fans and car collectors alike.

For those out of the loop, the movie Bullitt had one of the best car chase scenes of its time(obviously helped out by a black Dodge Charger and the presence of Steve McQueen) and cemented both the movie and the car in cinematic history. The chase scene was the template for many movies after-the-fact, such as ‘Gone in 60 Seconds,’ ‘Vanishing Point,’ ‘The Blues Brothers,’ ‘Smokey and the Bandit,’ and ‘The French Connection,’ but it was always the iconic Bullitt Mustang that was the fascination for car fans.

For many the mystique grew around the 1968 Bullitt Mustang, as it simply disappeared from public view until very recently. Apparently, the story goes that Warner Bros. repaired the car after filming and sold it a studio executive, who in turn sold it to East Coast detective Frank Marranca. The car was then sold via a October 1974 Road & Track classified ad. to Robert Kiernan for $6,000, who owned it until passing away in 2014. His son, Sean Kiernan in turn brought the car back to driveable standards and finally revealed the thing fully in 2018.

Bullitt-Mustang

The car was also kept under wraps for such a long time as for many years, Mustangs were a straightforward vehicle. Precisely why McQueen chose one in the first place, as a believable car for his detective character. Even when vintage car prices started to climb, Kiernan Snr. saw no worth in selling the car as it was simply seen as their car. McQueen apparently tried to buy the car many times from Kiernan, but the offers were always politely declined. The Mustang was even used as a daily driver until 1980, when the clutch eventually gave out at 65,000 miles. The car then moved several times with the family until 1995 landing in Nashville.

Bullitt-Mustang


In 2001, inspired by the release of a reproduction Bullitt Mustang GT, the car was made roadworthy again. Roughly bringing us up to early 2018 when it was first shown at the Detroit Auto Show.

The Mustang started off as a 1968 Mustang GT with a stock 390c.i. V8/325 HP, painted in Highland Green. Two Mustangs being originally sourced shooting. From there Max Balchowsky, as requested by McQueen, performed most of the modifications to the car, which was to be driven by McQueen himself, Bud Ekins who did the majority of jump scenes and Stunt Coordinator Carey Loftin. As this was a movie car, it was treated to the suspension and pickup points being strengthened, adjustable shocks, camera mounts and scene specific tweaks, like the hole in the trunk, presumably for a smoke machine to enhance the look of burnouts. The car also has evidence of adhesive tape marks, like on the tachometer to show the new red line after engine tweaks.

There’s obviously the question of the other Mustang that was used during shooting. That one was used mostly for the jump scenes and the final slide into the ravine, along with the banging into the Dodge Charger parts. Too badly beaten up to be put back into use, it eventually made its way to Mexico and showed its face again last year. Unfortunately, that car is now mostly non-original, due to deterioration over the years.

How much is it worth?
Good point.
As the car is a one-of-a-kind and connected to an iconic movie star, it’s obviously going to fetch a princely sum. Considering the Green Hornet 1968 Shelby Mustang prototype fetched $1.8 million at auction, this one with such iconic status, should fetch at least as much. Most likely the most amount ever for a Mustang.

Tune in to NBC Sports from noon until 3 p.m. ET for coverage.
Watch the auction livestream on mecum.com from any device.

For more information on the car – bullitt.mecum.com

 

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