To help unveil the MY19 Bullitt Mustang at the 2018 North American International Auto Show, Ford presented a piece of genuine Mustang history in the form of one of the original GTs used in the filming of Bullitt in 1968. Back in 1968, two identical 390 V8-powered Mustang GT fastbacks were purchased by Warner Bros. studios for the Steve McQueen film; one used for stunts and the other ‘hero’ model for close-up work. The stunt car was badly damaged – particularly during the ‘jumps’ on the San Francisco streets in the movie’s iconic car chase – and sent to a wrecking yard, but was recovered and reappeared in 2017. The hero car was sold to a Warner Bros. employee soon after filming wrapped and was thought to have been lost forever, but had actually made its way from California to New Jersey, then bounced around the US in the possession of Robert Kiernan, who had purchased it in 1974. Three years later (and three years prior to his death in 1980), McQueen allegedly tried to buy the Bullitt Mustang from Kiernan, but he refused. Used by Kiernan as his daily driver, the car suffered the usual wear and tear of regular use before it was taken off the road in 1980, but retained by the family. In 2001, Robert and his son Sean started a mechanical restoration of the car; Sean inheriting the unfinished project on his father’s passing in 2014. In 2015, Sean contacted Ford to reveal his ownership of the now iconic car. Following completion of the restoration in 2016, the car was taken to Ford’s design studios in Michigan, where it was shown to Steve McQueen’s granddaughter Molly; the first time it had been seen by a member of the McQueen family in almost five decades. Molly and the car then appeared in a short film promoting the new-generation Bullitt Mustang ahead of its presentation at the NAIAS this past January. “It was never our intention to keep this car a secret from everybody – it just kind of happened with life,” Sean said. “I’m just completely buzzing to join with Ford and the new Bullitt and show this car to the world on one of the biggest stages there is.” As presented in Detroit, the car looked shabby, with faded paint, rusty chrome and signs of wear and tear, but conscious of the car’s significance, Kiernan limited the restoration to the running gear, keeping the paint and exterior original, while the interior is the same as when McQueen sat in it fifty years ago. The Bullitt’s future following its unveiling in Detroit has yet to be revealed
NEW SHELBY GT500 CONFIRMED
What Ford are describing as their most powerful street-legal production model ever, the new Mustang Shelby GT500, was announced in January and has been confirmed for release to the North American market in 2019. Ford have provided precious little information so far, other than to state that the upcoming GT500 will be the “pinnacle of Mustang performance” and its supercharged V8 will offer “more than” 700 horsepower (522+kW); a jump from the last GT500 from 2012, a supercharged 5.8-litre unit that produced 494kW. Presumably, the new GT500’s block will be the same as that used in the current, naturally-aspirated 5.2-litre Shelby GT350, but with revised heads and possibly changes to the stroke and ECU, in addition to the supercharger. With a brief to “attack tracks and drag strips”, the GT500 appears to be aimed at Dodge’s Challenger SRT Demon, but with “only” 522kW, falls short of the Demon by just over 100kW (626kW = 840hp), It will be a closer match to the 527kW from the Challenger SRT Hellcat (NOTE: both Challengers are powered by 6.2-litre V8s, but with different sized superchargers being the main difference). However, the upcoming GT500 will outperform Chevy’s 485kW Camaro ZL1. Like the latest Shelby GT350 (with 392kW and 581Nm), the Shelby GT500 won’t get an Australian release, but enthusiasts can get similar levels of performance by upgrading their GT with parts from Mustang Motorsport in Victoria, which is Australia’s only licensed Shelby mod shop.