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2018 Detroit Motor Show: McQueen’s Bullitt Mustang reimagined

By Barry Park, 15 Jan 2018 Events

2018 Detroit Motor Show McQueens Bullitt Mustang reimagined

It’s the 50th anniversary of Steve McQueen’s iconic chase through the streets of San Francisco. Ford wants to celebrate

FORD has pulled the nostalgia heartstrings of America, releasing a manual-only version of the Ford Mustang called the Bullitt.

More powerful than a Mustang GT and with a plain white cue ball replacing the standard shift knob, the modern-day Bullitt is a tribute to the ‘Stang from the 1968 Steve McQueen film of the same name.

The reveal, ahead of tomorrow’s official opening of the 2018 Detroit Motor Show, also included the announcement that Ford would reintroduce another Mustang icon, the Mach 1. However, Ford’s plans for this badge are for a performance battery-electric vehicle – think a hybrid version of the Pony Car.

But back to today. The 2019 Ford Mustang Bullitt will be built to celebrate Bullitt’s 50th anniversary. According to the granddaughter he never met, Molly, who introduced the updated version to Detroit’s assembled media alongside the original, unrestored GT fastback her grandfather drove, Steve McQueen wanted a muscle car for his movie that even ordinary people could afford,

The 5.0-litre Coyote-engined 2018 Bullitt Mustang will spit out 354kW and 570Nm – about 10 percent more than the regular Mustang GT – and wind out all the way to a top speed of 262km/h, 13km/h faster than the car on which it is based.

“This new Bullitt is, as Steve McQueen was, effortlessly cool,” Darrell Behmer, the Mustang’s chief designer, said. “As a designer, it’s my favorite Mustang – devoid of stripes, spoilers and badges. It doesn’t need to scream about anything – it’s just cool.”

In McQueen’s movie, the Mustang GT fastback played a prominent role, most notably in a chase scene that set new standards in filmmaking. The movie’s almost 10 minute-long sequence followed McQueen chasing down two hitmen through the streets of San Francisco. It ends in a typical Hollywood fireball as McQueen axle-hops the Mustang to a stop to watch on as the bad guys are consumed in the flames – good guys rarely come last.

The Bullitt version of the Mustang is a combination of the US-market car’s premium and performance packages. Its exhaust includes an active valve performance system and is framed in exhaust tips finished in black ceramic coating, while the retuned engine gives the car a “signature burble”. The Bullitt also gains an open air induction system – what we’d probably call a cold air intake – and Shelby GT350 intake manifold with 87mm throttle bodies and powertrain control module calibration.

The multimedia system is tweaked to show the original fastback GT on start-up.

The Bullitt Mustang can be painted in the original Dark Highland Green, but owners less focussed on the cultural significance of the name can option it in Shadow Black.

“Other features that pay tribute to the car McQueen drove are subtle chrome accents around the grille and front windows, classic torque thrust (sic) 19-inch aluminum wheels, red-painted Brembo brakes, and a unique black front grille,” Ford said. “Inside and out, the vehicle uses minimal badging; only the circular faux gas cap Bullitt logo on the rear center is visible on the exterior.”

McQueen used two versions of the Mustang for Bullitt; the one he drove, and one used as a stunt double.

“After filming, the cars went their separate ways: the hero vehicle driven by McQueen in the movie was sold by Warner Bros to a private buyer, and the other – used in many of the jumps during the famous chase scene – was sent to a salvage yard,” Ford said. “That jumper vehicle resurfaced in Baja, California, in early 2017, but the other was lost to history. Until now.”

The McQueen Mustang was inherited by Sean Kiernan in 2014 from his late father, Robert, who had bought it in 1974.

Kiernan and Ford worked together to reveal the original Bullitt Mustang alongside the all-new one wearing its name at the 2018 Detroit Motor Show.

“You know, it was never our intention to keep this car a secret from everybody,” Sean said. “It just kind of happened with life. I’m just completely buzzing to join with Ford and the new Bullitt and show this car to the world on one of the biggest stages there is.”

A spokesman for Ford Australia said the Mustang Bullitt had so far only been approved for left-hand drive, meaning it was not yet on the radar for here.

“Given the Mustang’s popularity here we’re always looking for something that Australian buyers would be keen for,” Damion Smy told Wheels. “The Bullitt Mustang is an emotional and provocative car, so that would fit the bill.”