Ford is to introduce the 2001 Mustang “Bullitt” GT, a limited-edition performance derivative inspired by the legendary 1968 Mustang fastback that co-starred with Steve McQueen in the classic Warner Bros. Pictures film, “Bullitt”.

The decision to put the car into production came after Ford received an overwhelming positive response from consumers who first saw a concept version at last year’s Los Angeles Auto Show.


It also follows Ford of Europe’s 1997 Puma coupe launch television advertising campaign built around the ‘”Bullitt”‘ chase scene.


Advertising agency Young and Rubicam spent six days in San Francisco filming the then-new Puma in various locations. At the end of the 60-second commercial, the little coupe is backed into a garage next to a replica of the original 1968 Mustang owned by a Los Angeles TV station cameraman.


In the finished commercial, McQueen’s image is digitally imposed into the Puma as if he were driving the car.


The 2001 “Bullitt” features exterior enhancements that visually and emotionally connect it to the 1968 Fastback from the film. These modifications include unique side scoops, 17-inch “Bullitt”-style aluminium wheels and a lowered suspension.


“Bullitt” badging and polished-rolled tailpipe tips help distinguish the new car which will be available in Dark Highland Green, True Blue and Black. It’s powered by a 4.6L SOHC V-8, modified to improve airflow and reduce parasitic losses, which produces at least 270 horsepower and significantly more torque than the standard Mustang GT engine, itself no slouch.


The “Bullitt” is lowered three-quarters of an inch to give what Ford calls “a firmer, better-balanced ride and improved handling characteristics”.


Brakes are modified to include 13-inch Brembo front rotors and red-painted “performance” calipers.


Inside, the “Bullitt” features new bucket seats with Dark Charcoal leather trim, a brushed aluminium shifter ball, shifter bezel, door sill plates and pedal covers. Ford calls the new instrument cluster “a modern interpretation of 1960s design [with] unique curved numeric speedometer graphics and a white-lit background”.


U.S. buyers will pay an additional “package price” of $US3,695 for the Mustang “Bullitt” GT, which will be made as a limited production run of about 5,000 on the same Dearborn assembly line that produces the standard versions.


ONE OF TWO REAL “BULLITT” MUSTANGS LOCATED


For the filming of ‘”Bullitt”,’ two 1968 Mustang Fastbacks were used from the Warner Brothers fleet for Steve McQueen’s movie character.


Once the cars were selected, veteran race driver and builder Max Balchowski was enlisted to modify them for the rigours of the high-speed pursuit scenes. Balchowski added stronger springs and Koni shocks, and fabricated braces for the inner fenders (front wings). He also did some minor tuning to the 390-cubic-inch engine for a little more top-end power.


After filming was completed, the primary car was in sad shape. Two weeks of stunt driving had taken its toll on the Mustang, so it was sent to the crusher due to liability concerns. The remaining car, the less-damaged backup, was sold to an employee of Warner Brothers’ editing department.


In the early 1970s, the car was advertised in a classified ad in the Los Angeles Times for the then princely sum of $US6,000. A buyer was found and the car eventually made its way to the East Coast.


The Mustang went up for sale again in 1974, this time in an ad in the car magazine Road & Track. It is reported that Steve McQueen himself called the seller’s New Jersey number with a desire to purchase the car for his own collection. He was told the car had been sold, but was given the name and number of the buyer.


McQueen tried to persuade the new owner to resell it, but to no avail. The new owner did promise to contact him if he ever did decide to sell but McQueen died in 1980 with no contact from the owner.


Whenever contacted by prospective buyers or media, the current owner has refused offers of purchase or publicity. The car has been in non-running condition for some time.


The Mustang remained in New Jersey until the mid-1990s, when it was moved to a farm in the Ohio River Valley. Parked in a hay barn, it remained inoperable, still wearing New Jersey licence plates.


A film company recently made an offer to the owner for its use in a motion picture but the owner declined.