Last week, history was made when the most famous—and now the most expensive—Ford Mustang sold at Mecum Auctions for $3.4 million. The car on the block? The iconic 1968 Ford Mustang GT driven by Steve McQueen in the classic thriller, Bullitt.
At your local dealership, a brand-new Mustang GT sells for around $35,000, so it would take 100 of those cars to pay for the GT from Bullitt.
If you’re part of the Instagram generation, you might not have seen (or even heard of) Bullitt. The 1968 movie about San Francisco-based police lieutenant, Frank Bullitt, features legendary actor, Steve McQueen.
But the film’s true star is a dark green 1968 Mustang Fastback GT. The very same Mustang that sold at last week’s auction.
Sold! The Story of a $3.4 Million Ford Mustang
Part of the movie car’s appeal is the fact that, despite the odds, it managed to survive several decades of use. And it comes with a rich history.
In 1968, Warner Bros. purchased two Mustang GT fastbacks for the production of Bullitt—the vehicle identification number (VIN) for one being 8R02S125558 (‘558), and 8R02S125559 (‘559) for the other.
If you’ve seen Bullitt, you know the movie features plenty of car chases and airborne stunts. Over time, all those high-flying high jinks took a toll on Mustang ‘558. After the production of the film, the car was in such bad shape that it had to be junked.
Meanwhile, car ‘559, which was still salvageable, was bought by film studio employee, Robert Ross. Just two years later, however, Robert decided to sell the car to a New Jersey police officer by the name of Frank Marranca.
But Marranca eventually got tired of the Mustang, so he sold it to the Kiernan family, who went on to use the car as their primary transportation until 1980.
Somewhere along the way, Steve McQueen offered to buy the car back from the Kiernans, but they declined. After Robert Kiernan passed away in 2014, his son, Sean completed the restoration of the Bullitt Mustang. Sean then collaborated with Ford Motor Company for the car’s public debut at the 2018 Detroit Auto Show.
And then the car showed up at Mecum Auctions, where it sold for $3.4 million. With auction fees, the total out-the-door price was a staggering $3.7 million, according to CNN.
Of the sale, seller Sean Kiernan said, “This didn’t have anything to do with money. It had to do with breaking records and we did that.”
Still, putting around $3 million in your pocket must be nice.
How to Make Your Mustang Look Like a Million—or Three Million—Bucks
A Mustang GT fastback, like the one in Bullitt, wouldn’t have stood out much in 1968. You could have picked up a similar-looking car at the local dealership. After all, Steve McQueen’s famous Mustang was (and still is) mostly factory-stock.
The original movie car features factory Dark Highland Green paint, as well as a stock black interior. A standard (for the day) 390 cu in big-block V8—rated at 325 horsepower—is tucked under the hood.
But there are some subtle tweaks, both inside and out, that make McQueen’s Mustang unique. If you’ve got a ’68 Mustang hanging around, you can turn it into a clone of the car in the movie Bullitt. All you need is a little elbow grease—and quite a bit of money.
To find out what it takes to make a convincing clone, we looked at the websites Unexpected Ponysite and Mustang 360. Of course, if you’re planning on building a Bullitt-style Mustang, you’ll want to watch the movie several dozens of times to ensure you get the details right.
But for now, here are the primary ingredients for a Bullitt:
- Dark Highland Green paint
- Flat black tail light bezels and panel
- 15-inch American Racing Torq Thrust wheels with the center painted charcoal gray
- 215/65R15 tires
- Bullitt-style mesh grille without Mustang emblem
- Smooth body lines with side emblems removed and deleted reverse lights
- Round driver’s side exterior mirror
- Deluxe interior with black upholstery
- Wood-grain dashboard panel and shift knob
- Three-spoke steering wheel (the steering wheel in the movie is from a ’67 Shelby Mustang)
- Dual glass packs and white Hooker headers
What if you’ve got a late-model Mustang? You’ll find plenty of aftermarket, Bullitt-inspired upgrades available for newer cars. But to get the full effect, your Mustang has to be painted Dark Highland Green.
You Can Also Buy a Brand-New Bullitt Edition Mustang
Building a Bullitt clone from a classic Mustang isn’t for everyone. But don’t worry—you can get in on the excitement with a brand-new Bullitt edition Mustang.
The 2020 model comes with plenty of movie-related swag, such as a faux rear gas cap adorned with the Bullitt logo and Torq Thrust-style wheels. And the exterior paint color is—you guessed it—Dark Highland Green.
Plus, the modern Bullitt has all of the latest creature comforts. For example, the car comes with the SYNC3 multimedia center, an LCD digital cluster, and a lane-keeping system. You also get modern performance in the form of a 5.0L V8 engine (460 horsepower, 420 lb.-ft.) and a 6-speed automatic transmission.
So, if you’ve got Bullitt fever, you may want to check out one of the brand-new Mustangs at your local dealership.
Other Cool Upgrades You Can Make to Your Classic Mustang
Even if you don’t want to go the Bullitt route, CarParts.com has the parts you need to upgrade your classic Mustang. Key components include:
What are you waiting for? Get out there and build yourself a one-of-a-kind pony car!