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Reincarnation Magazine
Continuation, Reproduction and Replica Automobiles
Rein Car Nation Cover Spring 2020
						Bullitt Mustang 10

Bullitt Mustang Fetches $3.74 Million

By Dean Larson

Steve McQueen, the king of cool, had a known penchant for anything fast on wheels. Porsche 911s, a ’56 Jaguar XKSS and even Husqvarna dirt bikes were just a few vehicles that McQueen was known to favor. But the car most connected to McQueen’s image happens to be a 1968 Mustang GT that McQueen himself didn’t even own. Achieving icon status in the ’68 crime drama Bullitt, “the Bullitt Mustang” is now not only a member of the prestigious National Historic Vehicle Register, but also the most expensive Mustang ever sold.

The Mustang made headlines back in 2018 when the car’s long-term caretakers, the Kiernan family, took the car on tour. Robert Kiernan, the car’s third owner, purchased the Mustang from a Road & Track article back in 1974 for $3,500 as the family’s daily driver. It had been repaired and repainted after filming, but still wore its distinctive features from the film and the modification made.

In 1980, the Mustang’s clutch went out, and the car was put into storage. Each time that buzz grew surrounding the film or Ford’s Bullitt Mustangs, the Kiernan family got back to work on the car, but sadly Robert passed away in 2014, leaving his son Sean as its caretaker.

The Kiernans had never before considered selling the car, in fact, not even to the likes of McQueen himself, who wrote a heartfelt letter to Robert hoping to purchase the car in 1977. But in 2019, the Kiernan family announced that they’d be offering the Bullitt Mustang for auction in 2020. Offered at no reserve at Mecum’s Kissimmee auction, the bidding started at a ceremonious $3,500 bid. The bid surpassed $3 million one minute in, finally settling at $3.4 million, or $3.74 million after fees, making it the most expensive Mustang sold at auction. This figure bests the $2.2 million figure achieved by the 1967 Shelby GT500 Super Snake last year.

Having seen the car twice in recent years, we can attest to how well this car has been preserved over the five decades since its big screen debut. In addition to its Highland Green paintwork, riddled with scrapes, fading and other manners of character, the Mustang also retains its five-spoke alloys and black vinyl buckets.

You’ll notice all Ford badging is absent from the car today, just one of the modifications done prior to filming. In fact, the Highland Green paint was artificially worn after the car was purchased, likely to highlight Frank Bullitt’s image as a rough guy who did what it took to get the job done. Additional modifications can plainly be seen on the car as well, including some square steel on the chassis and a pair of holes in the trunk for ducting smoke onto the wheels in McQueen’s famous reverse burnout scene.

The identity of the winning bidder has not been revealed, but the Kiernan family is ecstatic with the auction result, which even topped Mecum’s optimistic estimates.

The Bullitt Mustang is the 21st car entered into the National Historic Vehicle Register, recognized for its unrestored status and connection to Hollywood royalty and American culture. For loads of information on the Bullitt Mustang, check out the Historical Vehicle Association's website here.

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