What Happened to the Original 1968 Mustang BULLITT?

The 2019 iteration of the Ford Mustang BULLITT marks the 3rd version of the special edition model and the 50th anniversary of the eponymous classic crime film, Bullitt, starring the late Steve McQueen. It faithfully recreates all the hallmark specialities and details from the original 1968 Mustang Fastback, such as its white cue-ball shift knob, highland green body paint, and the sweet sound of that incredible engine revving that acted as the soundtrack for the film's iconic car chase scene.

While the 2019 Mustang BULLITT proves itself as a faithful recreation, many have wondered what happened to the original car that was used in the film. Does it still exist? Is it reconditioned? Has it been hiding in plain sight on one of the "Fast and Furious" movies this whole time? Kentwood Ford has the answer for you, but first, here are some fun facts about the original 1968 Mustang BULLITT and the film it was featured in.

A Rising Star

As part of a promotional deal, Ford Motor Company lent Warner Bros. two 1968 V8 Ford Mustang GT Fastbacks for the film, each with a four-speed manual transmission and 325 horsepower. The first Mustang was used by McQueen's stunt driver for all the jumps and drifts you see in the car chase, but went to a salvage yard after filming wrapped. Meanwhile, the second Mustang driven by McQueen himself during close up shots has been missing in action since (more on that, later). Bullitt went on to become both a critical and box office success, while picking up the Academy Award for best editing, and became a staple in American culture. Since then, many were left wondering what happened to the actual 1968 Mustang.

Retired From The Business

1968 Mustang racing in the street in the film Bullitt

Shortly after the film's release in 1968, the second Mustang was sold to a Warner Bros. employee, Robert Ross, who eventually sold it in 1970 to a New Jersey detective, Frank Marranca, for only $6,000 (just wait until we tell you how much it's worth at the end). Marranca then sold it to an American couple, Robert and Robbie Kiernan, for the same price of $6,000 (unbelievable, right?).

News about the '68 Mustang died down since after that, but there was an instance where Steve McQueen himself wrote a letter to Kiernan in 1977, offering to buy the car back from him. He wrote in the letter that he "would very much like to keep it in the family in its original condition as it was used in the film, rather than have it restored" and even went on to say it was "simply personal" to him. McQueen even offered to buy him another Mustang as a substitute, but Kiernan never wrote back and McQueen later passed away in 1980. Since then, the original Mustang BULLITT has been out of the public eye for over 40 years.

Don't Call it a Comeback

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Throughout Robert Kiernan's ownership of the Mustang, his family had problems registering the vehicle in the New Jersey area because of its lack of reverse lights, it's loud exhaust, and numerous other factors that made it difficult to drive in public areas. This lead to the car being shelved and untouched for over 20 years. It wasn't until 2001 that Robert and his son, Sean Kiernan, began restoring the car back to its former glory. Sadly, Robert passed away in 2014 from Parkinson's disease before the final restorations were complete.

A year later, Sean contacted filmmakers Ken Horstmann and Casey Wallace about his family's Mustang BULLITT as talks about the 50th-anniversary edition of the vehicle was being discussed. Another year later in 2016, Sean finally completed the mechanical restoration of the original '68 Mustang on the 4th of July, and the engine still sounded like it did in the film.

A Family Reunion

In the late fall of 2017, Sean Kiernan revealed the newly-working '68 Mustang to none other than Steve McQueen's granddaughter, Molly. This was the first time she'd seen the original car her grandfather drove in person, and Ford captured that exact moment the two met over the iconic vehicle.

This brings us to 2018, when Sean drove the original '68 Mustang on-stage at the Detroit Auto Show to promote the 2019 Ford Mustang BULLITT to mark the 50th anniversary of the film's release. Remember when we said the original only sold for $6,000? While the current MSRP for the 2019 Mustang goes for $57,025, the '68 Mustang now goes for over $4 million.

Much like the film itself, the '68 Mustang is an American icon worthy of preservation and ingrained in our popular culture, today. We at Kentwood Ford hope you enjoyed this look back at its incredible journey throughout the last 50 years. Enjoy this fun little promo video Ford did with the 2019 Mustang Bullitt racing against a 2019 Dodge Charger.

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