THE Bullitt Mustang sells for AU$4.9 million

By: Alex Affat, Unique Cars magazine

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Bullitt front side Bullitt front side
Bullitt rear side Bullitt rear side
Bullitt parking permit Bullitt parking permit
Bullitt interior Bullitt interior
Bullitt engine Bullitt engine

A new all-time record for the sole surviving movie car, driven by Steve McQueen himself

The 2020 auction calendar has started with a bang, as THE Bullitt movie Mustang driven by Steve McQueen himself, sold for a whopping US$3.4 million (excl. fees) at Mecum’s Kissimmee auction.

That’s AU$4.9 million at the current exchange rate, and a new Ford Mustang record as it overtakes the one-off 1967 Shelby Super Snake sold at the same auction last year for AU$3.3 million.

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According to documentation attained by Mecum, the car is the lone surviving example of two Highland Green 1968 Mustang GT 390 Fastbacks ordered by Warner Brothers for the movie. Both were specified with 390ci V8s and four-speed manuals, though one used for stunts was badly battered and was ultimately scrapped.

This hero car, driven by Steve McQueen in that now-iconic car film, remained relatively unscathed and was sold to studio employee Robert Ross who needed a daily driver. His Warner Brother’s employee parking sticker remains on the bottom right corner of the windscreen.

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By 1970, Ross had sold the Mustang to a New Jersey police detective named Frank Marranca, supported by movie car certification by Warner Brother Studios. However, Marranca reportedly had too many cars and sold the Bullitt Mustang to Robert Kiernan via a 1974 classifieds listing in Road & Track magazine.

Mecum reports that Kiernan purchased the iconic Mustang for just $6,000, and apparently didn’t care much for the car’s movie provenance. He just loved the sound of a 390ci and wanted a big-block ’68 Mustang of his own.

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McQueen reportedly tracked down the car to the Kiernans and attempted to purchase the car back, however Kiernan turned down the King of Cool, and instead was daily driven by Robert’s wife as she ferried their young son Sean to school.

The clutch gave out in 1980 after 65,000 miles covered, and the car was garaged while the family relocated several times before landing in Nashville.

When Ford launched a ‘Bullitt’ tribute car in 2001, the family was inspired to restore the car though unfortunately Robert was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease, halting the restoration efforts.

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After Robert’s passing in 2014, his son Sean put the car back on the road, reassembling it with all the original components. It’s a car whose story is every bit as spectacular as the hype surrounding it, and is well-deserving of its record-price; in both its origins, and the decades of anonymity following its now iconic cinematic appearance.

Many had hunted, a few even claimed they’d found it, but for almost 40 years  it had been sitting in the Kiernan family shed, only reappearing to the public when Ford unveiled its 50th anniversary 2018 Mustang Bullitt at the Detroit Motor Show.

 

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