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1968 “Bullitt” Mustang Fetches $3.7 Mio at Mecum Kissimmee 2020


© 2019 Mecum Auction

© 2019 Mecum Auction

© 2019 Mecum Auction

© 2019 Mecum Auction

© 2019 Mecum Auction

© 2019 Mecum Auction

© 2019 Mecum Auction

© 2019 Mecum Auction

© 2019 Mecum Auction

© 2019 Mecum Auction

 

History was made on January 10, 2020 as the Mecum auction block arena at Oceola Heritage Park filled to capacity to watch history unfold. In 1968, “Bullitt” had cemented itself as the pivotal moment in the history of car chase scenes, doing what none had ever done before and setting the standard for all that would follow, earning it the badge of honor that it carries today as the single greatest car chase scene in history.

This Highland Green 1968 Ford Mustang GT Fastback ‘599 — the hero car expertly piloted by the “King of Cool,” Steve McQueen through the bustling and steep streets of San Francisco — is the one that started that enduring legacy. Hidden away for decades until its reveal to the public in 2018, this star of the silver screen crossed the block at Mecum’s Kissimmee’s auction on Friday night as Lot F150. Offered at no reserve at the world’s largest collector car auction it found a new owner at the record price of $3,740,000.

The Movie Cars

For the movie Warner Bros. had sourced two Highland Green 1968 Mustang GT 390 Fastbacks from Ford with back-to-back serial numbers, both with 390/325 HP big-block V-8s and 4-speed transmissions. Race car driver and constructor Max Balchowsky modified of the two Mustangs to ensure that they could hold up to the rigorous driving they were about to endure. The cars’ suspensions and pickup points were beefed up, Koni adjustable shocks were installed, all of the badging and backup lights removed, chrome elements painted black or Highland Green, and the stock wheels were swapped for gray American Racing Torq Thrust wheels. While the Mustangs’ stock exhaust systems retained their glasspacks, the transverse mufflers were replaced with straight pipes, allowing the thunderous growl of the 390 CI Ford V-8 to project even more; as for the engine, cylinder heads were modified, the carburetor was reset and an electronic ignition system was added.

History

Following its movie debut, the 1968 Mustang GT hero car ‘599 was sold to Robert Ross, a Warner Bros. employee who used it as a commuter, while the other Mustang stunt car was deemed unrepairable and reportedly scrapped. The hero car then found its way to New Jersey and into the hands of Detective Frank Marranca, who bought the car in 1970. As Marranca’s family grew, he eventually put the hero car up for sale in October 1974. The late Robert Kiernan of Madison, New Jersey, picked up the 1968 Mustang fastback for $6,000. Kiernan later declined repeated offers from Steve McQueen himself to reacquire the vehicle. In its early years with the Kiernan family, the Mustang was used as a daily driver by Robert’s wife, who taught at a nearby school. But, when the car’s clutch went out in 1980, it was moved into the garage with just 65,000 miles on the odometer, eventually ending up at the family’s new farm in Nashville.

Revealed

Sean Kiernan managed to complete the work he and his father Robert had started years before to return the Bullitt Mustang to roadworthy condition, unveiling it to the general public alongside Ford’s third Bullitt Edition Mustang at the Detroit Auto Show in early 2018.

In addition to its Highland Green paintwork, the Bullitt Mustang retains many of the fingerprints from its time in front of the camera, including the camera mounts welded to the rockers, the welded patches covering what used to be the backup lights before McQueen had them removed, modifications for camera gear both inside and out, its custom exhaust, adhesive residue on the tachometer and even the Bondo used to repair the door after it was smashed in during the final moments of the chase scene.