Few movies pull at gear-head heartstrings like Bullitt. Steve McQueen and his co-star ’68 Mustang owned the screen. This recreation of the classic muscle car was built for Steve’s son and is a visually accurate creation with a handful of modern updates. The car was just sold at auction, I wasn’t the lucky bidder…
The Ford Mustang and Bullitt
If any car could be considered the “going thing” in 1960s America, the Ford Mustang would be it. Selling over one million units from April 1964 through the 1966 model year was an unprecedented achievement for a sporty car. And in the Swingin’ Sixties, no movie better captured the zeitgeist of American performance than Bullitt, a crime thriller with such a spectacular chase sequence through the streets of San Francisco that the National Observer was compelled to say, “Whatever you have heard about the auto chase scene in BULLITT is probably true…a terrifying, deafening shocker.”
Chad McQueen was only seven years old when his father, Steve McQueen, appeared in the cop drama. “It was such a heavy impact for a kid,” he told Mustang Monthly magazine. “It was loud and I even remember the smells. That’s why I’ve done nothing but mess with cars my whole life,” becoming an actor who has raced Baja, competed at the top levels of SCCA competition, and at major endurance races including the Daytona 24 Hours. When Ford created the 2001 Bullitt GT program, they consulted with Chad, giving him the first production Bullitt Mustang. Ditto for the 2008 Bullitt Mustang. But what about a 1968 Bullitt Mustang replica?
The Motorcar Offered
The Hollywood producer responsible for creating theOverhaulin’ TV show, Bud Brutsman, came up with the idea of building a quasi-modern interpretation for Chad for an episode of Celebrity Rides on the Learning Channel. Bud brought together YearOne (to supply the parts) and Gateway Classic Mustang (to build the car) to help with the project. Their plan was to make the 1968 Mustang as visually authentic as possible but with modern updates to the powertrain and suspension. This was challenging because the movie car was modified from stock, but Matt Stone, author of McQueen’s Machines, had stills from the movie; complicating matters was the fact that a second car with minor trim differences was used for several scenes. Gateway built the replica in all of four months, documented by Bud’s camera crew. Dynacorn’s reproduction 1967 Mustang fastback shell gave them a fine starting point with better steel, shock tower braces, and improved door hinges. Proper 1968 side scoops were added to make things more authentic. The body was then painted in DuPont/Axalta Hot Hues’ Highland Green. YearOne supplied most of the new replacement components to finish the Bullitt Mustang build but several vintage parts were also used.
To make the Bullitt Mustang drive like a late-model vehicle, RRS front and rear suspensions were used. Up front, a coil-over strut system with RRS’s Phase II brakes plus Stainless Steel Brakes Corporation’s dual-piston calipers were utilized. Out back is RRS’s bolt-in three-link suspension system that mates a Watt’s link assembly to a 9-inch Ford axle (with 3.50 gears) for more contemporary ride and handling. Sixteen-inch American Racing wheels are shod with BF Goodrich G-Force Sport tires.
Under the hood is Ford Racing’s 347 crate motor with 450 horsepower thanks to aluminum “Z” cylinder heads, Victor Jr. aluminum intake, 770-cfm Holley Street Avenger four-barrel carburetor, and a JBA exhaust system with straight pipes. All this power is hooked up to a late-model T-45 five-speed manual with a conversion kit from Keisler Engineering. In a proper nod to the past, a 1968 shifter is used.
A YearOne Deluxe black interior with woodgrain highlights is a subtle upgrade from what the original car had. A Boston Acoustics amp, speakers, and subwoofers are tastefully hidden from the purists. The vehicle is appropriately titled in California as a 1968 Ford.
Forty-five years after Steve McQueen raced through the streets of San Francisco, this fine recreation – owned by Steve’s son, no less – is the closest you will ever get to driving the real thing, which has been in hiding since the early 1970s. Additionally, a portion of the proceeds will benefit the Boys Republic school of Chino, CA, which has guided more than 28,000 at-risk teenage boys and girls to productive lives – including Steve himself.