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Classic Car Spotlight: Ford Mustang Bullit

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Few cars have achieved the iconic pop culture status of the 1968 Ford Mustang from the film Bullitt. Steve McQueen’s gritty portrayal of San Francisco police lieutenant Frank Bullitt was highlighted by a riveting 10-minute chase scene that instantly cemented the Highland Green Mustang fastback as a legend among movie and muscle car fans alike. 

The visceral thrill of that game-changing sequence – complete with the roaring 390 V8, screaming tires, and McQueen’s intense stunt driving – made the Bullitt Mustang an instant celebrity. It triggered a cult following that has spanned generations and inspired Ford to release multiple modern Bullitt special edition models like the 2001 Ford Mustang Bullitt, 2008 Ford Mustang Bullitt, and 2019 Ford Mustang Bullitt.

While those factory tributes capture the spirit and aesthetic of the original movie car, they can’t replicate the feeling of a true 1968 Mustang underpinned by a modern performance build. 

The Unstoppable Legend of the Ford Mustang Bullitt

In the canon of all-time great chase scenes, one reigns supreme above all others – the blistering, high-octane pursuit through the hilly streets of San Francisco in the 1968 film Bullitt, starring Steve McQueen as the relentless police lieutenant of the same name. The hero car in this cinematic classic? A 1968 Ford Mustang fastback clad in a stunning Highland Green paint job.

From the moment it roars onto the screen, the engine snarling before ripping into an extended 10-minute duel with a jet-black Dodge Charger, the Mustang GT instantly cements itself as an automotive legend. With its distinct lack of exterior badges, blacked-out grille, and menacing American Racing wheels, this was a Mustang like no other – perfect for chasing down mob hitmen.

McQueen himself was deeply involved in creating this iconic muscle car persona, opting for a more subdued, aggressive look. The movie star also requested the 390 cubic-inch V8 be tweaked for a meaner exhaust note and enhanced throttle response. This pony car looked and sounded every bit the snarling, road-going predator.

That famous chase scene, with its roaring engines, shrieks of tire smoke, and jaw-dropping stunt driving by McQueen and the crew, elevated the Bullitt Mustang into the stratosphere of pop culture legends. Never before had on-screen driving action been captured with such intensity and true-to-life authenticity. The Bullitt chase instantly rewrote the standards for movie chase scenes forever.

Fans and enthusiasts quickly became obsessed with the McQueen Mustang, building countless replicas to recapture that magic. Ford ultimately responded to the immense popularity by releasing several special edition Bullitt Mustangs over the years.

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2001 Ford Mustang Bullitt

The legend was revived in the 21st century with the arrival of the 2001 Ford Mustang Bullitt. This modern interpretation wore a sinister black exterior accented by the iconic American Racing Torque Thrust wheels. Under the hood was a specially tuned 4.6L V8 making 265 hp, an uptick from the standard Mustang GT’s 260 hp rating.

More than just looks and extra power, the 2001 Mustang Bullitt rode on a revised suspension tuned for improved handling, along with upgraded Brembo brakes. Interior styling touches, like the retro-inspired seats, added extra visual pop.

Only offered as a special edition for the 2001 and 2002 model years, just over 6,500 units of the 2001 Ford Mustang Bullitt were produced. It kickstarted a whole new generation of Mustang enthusiasts chasing the Bullitt mystique.

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2008 Ford Mustang Bullitt

The iconic Bullitt nameplate returned to the Mustang lineup in 2008 to celebrate the thriller’s 40th anniversary. Once again based on the Mustang GT, the 2008 Ford Mustang Bullitt wore a subtle yet unmistakable appearance courtesy of its Highland Green paint, lack of exterior badges, blacked-out grille, unique aluminum interior trim, and those signature Torque Thrust wheels.

Power came from a 4.6L V8 putting out 315 hp, mated to a Tremec 5-speed manual transmission. As with the 2001 edition, suspension revisions dialed up the handling performance of this unique Mustang variant.

Just over 7,000 of the 2008 Ford Mustang Bullitt were produced between the 2008 and 2009 model years before production ended. This second take on the Bullitt legend was even more faithful to McQueen’s original, delighting hordes of enthusiasts in the process.

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2019 Ford Mustang Bullitt

Just when you thought the Bullitt legend couldn’t get any better, Ford unleashed the 2019 Mustang Bullitt to celebrate 50 years since the iconic movie car roared onto the silver screen. This modern pony car paid tribute in stunning fashion, wearing that signature Highland Green paint and rocking the classic blacked-out grille, omitted badging, and awesome Torque Thrust-style wheels. But the 2019 Bullitt was more than just retro styling cues – it packed a 480-horsepower 5.0L V8 punch, rev-matching 6-speed manual transmission, and uprated suspension for serious performance. Rev that burly V8 and you’re treated to a glorious muscle car soundtrack reminiscent of McQueen’s original. With just under 7,000 built, the 2019 Mustang Bullitt gave a whole new generation of enthusiasts the chance to experience Bullitt magic.

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Bullitt’s Enduring Legacy

While the original 1968 Ford Mustang Bullitt movie car remains the most valuable of the bunch, having auctioned for an eye-watering $3.4 million in 2020, its lasting imprint on automotive culture is immeasurable. The visceral chase scene sparked an entirely new standard for on-screen driving action and McQueen’s performance behind the wheel of the Bullitt Mustang has inspired generations of car fans.

From sanctioned continuations to aftermarket Restomods recreating the Bullitt look, fans can’t get enough of this iconic muscle machine. It seems the Bullitt Mustang’s legend is unstoppable.

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Protect Your One-of-a-Kind Classic with Classic Auto Insurance

Over a half-century after its big-screen debut, the mere mention of the Bullitt Mustang still commands reverence and brings excitement to every car enthusiast. No lengthy script or dialogue is required – simply rev up that bellowing V8 and peel out in a cloud of tire smoke for an instant representation of why this car has achieved immortality. 

And just like any classic car, truck, or SUV, your pride and joy deserves the best insurance on the market. Classic Auto has customizable policies available to guarantee you have every coverage you need to protect your investment. We also offer exceptional benefits including 24/7 roadside assistance with flatbed towing, rollover miles, and discount options. Contact us today by calling 888-901-1338 to learn more about what we cover and to get your free quote.

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