Those rumors about a new Bullitt model of the Ford Mustang, recognizing the 50th anniversary of the Steve McQueen film, turned out to be right on the money, as Ford unveiled the 2019 Mustang Bullitt — and attendees at the Detroit Auto Show got quite a surprise as the wraps came off.
The new car was joined onstage by the original 1968 Mustang GT which was driven by McQueen in the film fifty years ago, and the fact that it was there was certainly not a coincidence. In a display of corporate engagement for which marketing representatives would trade various body parts, the current owner of the car, Sean Kiernan, told car nut Jay Leno that he and Ford “found each other” and then teamed up to carefully craft the car’s “rediscovery”. Kiernan’s father Robert Jr. purchased the car in 1974 after spotting it in a Road & Track ad for a “Bullett” (sic) Mustang. He was the only one who responded, and picked it up for $6,000, which was actually quite a princely sum those days, especially for a rather well-used six year old vehicle.
Three years later, McQueen wrote to Robert and asked if he could get the car back somehow. He said he wanted to keep it in its original condition as it had appeared in the film, and offered to pay for a replacement car, because the Kiernans were using it as daily transport — but only if “there is not too much monies involved in it”.
The car was taken off the road and stored in a garage, at which point it was generally classified as “lost”. When Ford launched special edition Bullitt Mustangs in 2001 and 2008, Sean Kiernan decided to rebuild the car and give it some public exposure, but it was not to be: the elder Kiernan passed away in 2014 prior to completion of the work.
Currently, the vehicle is basically roadworthy, but still hasn’t been restored. There are no plans to sell it, but car boffins say if it was put on the block, it could fetch $4 million or so; the original Batmobile and James Bond‘s Aston Martin DB5 each sold for about as much.
A documentary about the Bullitt Mustang is also in the works.