One of the most iconic movie cars of all time, a 1968 Ford Mustang GT 390 Fastback – the Bullitt Mustang – arrived today in Tacoma, Washington, where it will be on display at America’s Car Museum (ACM) through April 25, 2019.
The Ford Mustang piloted by legendary actor and motorsports enthusiast Steve McQueen during the 1968 film “Bullitt” left a lasting impact on movies and pop culture since its release. In Bullitt, McQueen played the title character, a SFPD detective trying to bust a mob ring.
The 9-minute and 42-second chase scene was revolutionary for its time – putting the audience inside the vehicle while driving on actual roads and building suspense without any spoken dialogue – a film style that would later define director Peter Yates’ vehicle chase scenes.
The authentic feel of Bullitt was achieved through a number of factors including real stunt driving, where drivers reached speeds as high as 110 mph through the streets of San Francisco, only possible because San Francisco’s Mayor Joe Alioto – who only charged $1 for permission to film – recognized how much publicity the city would get from a McQueen movie. Rather than building lavish sets, the filmmakers were able to utilize many parts of the city as a backdrop.
“Steve McQueen was one of those rare individuals who was able to infuse his passion for motorsports directly into his films, and there’s no better example than Bullitt,” said AAT Vice Chair David Madeira. “It’s not every day that we get the chance to showcase a vehicle that has made such a lasting impact on the way cars are presented on film. It’s humbling to share the long and storied history of this Mustang with ACM guests.”
Two Mustang GT 390s were modified for the making of Bullitt – which included a dark Highland Green paint scheme, no exterior badges, scoops or spoilers and adorned with a black-mesh grille absent of Ford’s iconic pony badging. Of the two, this is the only surviving car.
While the car would live on as a daily driver for the Kiernan family, it eventually wound up being stored in their garage in Tennessee for years before being resurrected, thanks to the thoughtful recommissioning of his son, Sean. The Bullitt Mustang, still rocking its original paint and remaining largely unmodified, was showcased at the 2018 North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) nearly half a century after the movie premiered alongside a new tribute model from Ford.
Following its reemergence at NAIAS, the Bullitt Mustang became the 21st vehicle inducted into the Historic Vehicle Association’s (HVA) National Historic Vehicle Register and its documentation, photographs and history will be archived in the Library of Congress so that future generations can see the car as it stands today.
“The story of this vehicle is as unique as the car itself,” added Madeira. “We’d like to thank Sean and the HVA for giving us the opportunity to celebrate the history of one of film’s most influential cars.”
ACM will be holding a screening of Bullitt and a Q&A with the car’s owner, Sean Kiernan, in late January. Details for the event will be revealed at a later time on ACM’s website, americascarmuseum.org.