Photo credit: Mecum
One might wonder how Steve McQueen must have felt when his bid to reacquire the Ford Mustang from the iconic film “Bullitt” was turned down.
The 1968 classic, with McQueen playing the suave detective Frank Bullitt, is famous for featuring what is arguably the most thrilling car chase in cinematic history. The Highland Green Ford Mustang GT relentlessly pursues a black Dodge Charger through the hilly streets of San Francisco, delivering ten minutes of high-octane excitement that undoubtedly left an indelible mark on McQueen. So profound was the impact that years later, he sought to purchase the very Mustang he drove on screen.
The Highland Green Ford Mustang GT featured in the movie Bullitt and driven by Steve McQueen in the famous car chase on the streets of San Francisco.
The film actually employed two Mustangs, but the one used for the most daring stunts was considered beyond repair post-filming. The other, which survived, eventually ended up with a Warner Bros. employee.
Fast forward to 1974, and this Mustang surfaced in a “Road & Track” magazine classified advertisement that Robert Kiernan responded to and became the new owner. By the time McQueen found out, it was already too late. Thus began Steve McQueen’s attempts to persuade the new owner to sell it to him. He even offered to help him find a similar model. However, the actor’s letters did not sway Kiernan, and the Mustang remained an elusive dream for the actor.
The letter Steve McQueen wrote to Robert Kiernan in 1977, owner of the Ford Mustang, attempting to purchase the car.
Complicating matters still further, the car suffered a technical setback that left it idle for years – a period during which McQueen sadly passed away at the age of 50. Meanwhile, Kiernan, who had begun restoring the car in anticipation of Ford’s release of a limited-edition Mustang GT Bullitt, was tragically struck by a severe form of Parkinson’s disease, which abruptly ended the restoration efforts.
It was Robert Kiernan’s son, Sean, who in 2014 decided to finish his father’s project. He aimed to make the Mustang roadworthy again while preserving its historical patina and signs of age, honouring both his father and the legendary actor. The Mustang, now listed in the American Historic Vehicle Association (HVA), was showcased at the Detroit Auto Show in 2018 to mark the launch of the third “Bullitt” Mustang edition.
The car has been maintained in original condition with the patina and signs of age. A genuine relic.
The final chapter, however, took place in January 2020 at the auction organised by Mecum in Kissimmee, USA. The vehicle was sold for $3,740,000. A happy ending for Sean and confirmation that his father was right to want to keep it! More than just a barn find, it’s a story worth knowing.
The 2020 Mecum auction held in Kissimee, Florida, where the Mustang sold for $3,740,000.
CLASSIC CAR MATCHER