Often cited to as "the movie with the greatest Hollywood Car Chase of All Time," Steve McQueen’s Bullitt set an unbelievably high watermark for movie cars--one that’s been nearly impossible to top since.
Think about it, while many automakers have embraced a starring car with a special edition, few have done it over several generations of that car. Ford has, and there are three generations of Mustang Bullitts that have gone on sale, letting buyers of any age or taste enjoy the fantasy of being Steve McQueen themselves.
1968: The Icon Emerges
The original Ford Mustang Bullitt--as in the cars used in the movie--are 1968 Fastback models painted in Highland Green. Because things on the silver screen are stretched for our entertainment, these models were far from stock. Sure they packed a 6.4-liter V8 engine, good for 320 horsepower and 427 lb-ft of torque at the time, but the vehicles had to be adjusted to handle the hardships of stunt driving. Oh, and they had to look extra memorable for that 10-minute long pursuit scene.
The foglights were removed, a new front grille was added, and the badges were removed or replaced. You’ll see that the movie car has its radio antenna moved to the rear passenger side, just so it wouldn’t get in the way of Steve McQueen’s close-ups. The movie car also had an odd driver’s side door mirror, slightly round compared to the ‘68s normally squarish setup.
Beyond the bodywork, it’s worth remarking that the Mustangs in the movie were juiced up, featuring milled heads in addition to upgrades to the carburetor and ignition. The shock towers were stiffened up, there were extra bracing and heavy-duty front springs in addition to a thicker antiroll bar and Koni shocks so that the car could dance on the screen.
All of that adds up to be one of the most badass Hollywood cars in the history of movie-making. We wonder what would happen if buyers could get a Bullitt spec model from the factory, but many have fun doing the conversion themselves.
2000: Ford Wants You To Remember
In 2000 Ford measured interest with a Bullitt concept car that debuted at the 2000 LA Auto Show. It went on sale shortly after as a 2001 model year vehicle. The 2001 Ford Mustang Bullitt featured a 4.6-litre V8 engine that made 265 horsepower and 305 lb-ft of torque. These numbers sound thin, but it is important to remember, that power calculation and fuel standards between the ‘60s and 2000s changed dramatically. Also, the SN-95 model didn’t have to put on a scene-stealing performance in a movie. It just had to remind you of the original.
It assuredly did, especially in its Highland Green paint finish, which is one of three colors you could get the 2001 in. The other two were Black and True Blue, the latter of which is regarded as pretty rare, with only 722 out of 5,582 2001 Bullitts sporting that hue.
Even if it didn’t have to powerslide cinematically through corners, this 2001 had some fairly robust alterations including a cast-aluminum intake, high-flow exhaust and a 57-mm twin-bore throttle body. The vehicle also featured a lowered suspension setup, unique wheels, and those Bullitt badges, that harness the imagery from the movie poster. Inside you’ll find an aluminum ball-shaped shifter.
2008: Understated, Retro and Loud
Seven years later, a Bullitt badge found its way on a new generation of Mustang. Unlike the 2001 model, the S197 featured limited chrome accents and looked closer to the original with its understated aura. Again, there are no badges to be found except for a Bullitt badge on the rear trunk. The wheels are the same style as the 2001 and the 1968 movie ride. The interior features that same aluminum ball-shifter and some aluminum inserts in the gauge cluster, that provide a ‘60s design reference.
The 4.6-liter V8 in this car featured the Ford Racing’s Power Upgrade Package, which includes a cold-air intake, an improved engine management system, and special exhaust components including a new X-Pipe and new mufflers. The new output is 315 horsepower and 325 lb-ft of torque. The 2008 model sounds remarkable like the OG. The 2008 also features a slightly higher redline, and a more aggressive rear-end ratio of 3.73:1 instead of the GT’s 3.31:1.
The 2008 model gets a few more suspension upgrades than its predecessor, with more aggressive shocks and struts and a tower-to-tower brace to improve chassis responsiveness and rigidity.
About 5,808 of the 2008 Mustang Bullitt were produced, with three-quarters of them sporting the Highland Green paint finish. The other 1,431 were just Black. In 2009 an extra run of the Bullitt was offered, and 816 were added to the world.
2019: Bullitt Goes Pro
Ten years later, we get the 2019 Bullitt. Bringing the iconic movie car to life today means giving it even more power, performance and technology. The 5.0-liter V8 engine makes 480 horsepower and 420 lb-ft of torque through an open-air induction system, and intake borrowed from the Shelby GT350. The S550 Bullitt also comes with a special active valve performance exhaust, boasting Black NitroPlate tips, which gives the Bullitt a soundtrack of its own. The vehicle is also offered with a MagneRide suspension system, which can adjust the ride comfort or responsiveness as needed.
The Highland Green and Shadow Black paint finishes are offered here again, and you’ll see the familiar five-spoke wheels on the 2019 model as all the other Bullitt themed Mustangs. There’s a subtle chrome accent around the grille and windows, and all badges are removed except for the Bullitt logo on the rear of the car. Inside, the aluminum shifter is swapped out for a white, cue-ball-like shifter. The seats and dash feature green stitching to match the exterior.
It’s cliche to say it, but driving the 2019 model feels like you’re in a movie of your own. People can’t help but turn their heads when they hear the active exhaust system burble, and instead of seeing a car with huge spoilers and flashy stripes, they nod approvingly of the subtle green Mustang. Maybe they recall the good-guy McQueen chasing the bad guys, or maybe they love the noises. Either way, this car drips cool which is what truly separates a Mustang Bullitt from the rest.