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Many cite Bullitt as the first film to have a car chase. It seems fitting as well since the movie’s star, Steve McQueen, was an avid racer (read about Le Mans here).
The film featured two identical 1968 Ford Mustangs which McQueen drove, including in the ten minute long chase. One car was used for casual driving shots while the other “jumper” car was used for the action.
After the project was completed, McQueen tried to purchase the car to add to his private collection, but was unsuccessful.
It turns out that the “casual” car was actually given to a Warner Brothers employee before being sold twice afterward for a mere $3,500.
The second time it was sold via a newspaper advertisement which read:
“1968 ‘Bullett’ (sic) MUSTANG driven by Steve McQueen in the movie ‘Bullett’ (sic). British Racing Green, 4 speed, new tires, 19,000 miles, mint condition. Can be documented. Best offer.”
According to Sean Kiernan, who inherited the car from his father, their family used it as an everyday vehicle for awhile before it remained in their garage.
“You have to remember that, at the time, ‘movie cars’ were not really sought after,” Kiernan said.
Many suspected that the owner (who at the time was unknown to most) was trying to keep the car under wraps for personal enjoyment, but Kiernan explained that the intention was always to reveal it once it was ready.
After his father passed, Kiernan worked with a friend to restore it, and the car was unveiled in 2018 – fifty years after the film was released.
In 2020, the Mustang sold at auction for $3.74 million and became the most valuable Ford Mustang in the world. A car of the same model and type (though without the Bullitt connection) would only be worth $70 thousand.
Interestingly, the Bullitt car story isn’t over because the other “jumper” car that was thought to be lost was actually found.
The car was scrapped after it sustained damage during the filming, and in 2017, it was found in a junkyard in California.
The find was accidental though, and the body shop owner was intending to convert the car into a replica of the Gone in 60 Seconds vehicle driven by Nicholas Cage.
After searching the VIN number, they realized that they had the Bullitt car and abandoned any ideas of altering it. They now plan to restore the car and eventually put it up for auction.