The Legend Continues
10 minutes and 53 seconds. That’s the reason why this review is here. That’s how long it took for cinema to be changed. And that’s how long it took for the Ford Mustang to be immortalized once again.
If you don’t already know what I’m taking about, allow me to explain.
2018 marks the 50th anniversary of the film Bullitt. starring Steve McQueen playing the title character, SFPD Lieutenant Frank Bullitt. Fans of the movie will disagree, but despite being a box office hit, but it’s not a particularly sophisticated movie. It’s also not particularly memorable other than the fact that it’s a kitschy 1968 melodramatic silver screen flick directed by Peter Yates and produced by Philip d’Antoni.
However for car enthusiasts, the 10 minute 53 second now-classic car chase scene is one of the screen’s all-time best. It was an exciting sequence that revolutionized Hollywood’s standards and it has been said that the editing of that scene was likely what won editor Frank P. Keller the Academy Award for Best Editing.
One of the key components of that car chase scene was the 1968 Ford Mustang GT V8 Fastback that our protagonist, Lieutenant Frank Bullitt, drove when chasing hitmen in a black Dodge Charger.
Third Time’s the charm
Steve McQueen’s 1968 Ford Mustang GT390 Fastback is making its presence known to today’s car buyers through the special edition 2019 Ford Mustang Bullitt.
Obviously the timing is deliberate, as 2018 marks half a century since Bullitt wowed audiences with its ground breaking chase scene that took two of the 12 weeks that were allotted to filming the entire movie.
This isn’t the first time Ford has issued a special edition Bullitt Mustang. In fact, this is the third Ford vehicle to draw inspiration from the Lieutenant’s steed. Over the last 30 years, Ford actually hasn’t reissued a special edition as regularly as the Bullitt Mustang, despite the Mustang brand having a lot of other great names to draw from such as the assorted Shelby models, the Mach 1, the Boss, or the King Cobra.
Nonetheless, the 2019 Ford Mustang Bullitt follows a formula as predictable as Frank Bullitt’s romp through the streets of 1968 San Francisco and is the most notable tribute to the film’s anniversary yet.
What is it?
Ford has built its latest tribute vehicle as authentic as it comes, adjusted for modern day times.
Based on the excellent latest generation Ford Mustang, the look starts with a Hunter Green paint job and black wheels. Like the movie car, it is understated. Those in the know will recognize it for what it is. Aside from the massive bull’s-eye on the trunk, the body is clean with no rear wing or other badges.
The black wheels, now big 19-inchers, mostly share only a passing resemblance to the Torq-Thrust alloys from Lieutenant’s Mustang GT390 but they look dynamite on the refreshed sixth-generation Mustang coupe’s body.
The movie car had chrome surrounds on its grille and greenhouse, and although they didn’t make it onto the first and or second-generation Mustang Bullitts, they’re now here.
Finally, the pièce de résistance is the multi-mode exhaust system, finished with four black tips.
Under the hood
Ford did some fettling to the engine and the 2019 Mustang Bullitt is now the fastest, most powerful non-Shelby Mustang on the market, with 480 horsepower and 420 lb-ft (569 Nm) of torque. Top speed is now a highly illegal 163 miles per hours (262.32 kilometres). That’s 20 more horsepower from the 5.0-litre normally aspirated V8 and an extra eight miles (12.8 kilometres) on the top end.
Will you feel the extra 20 more horsepower considering that there are already well-over 450? Probably not. But bragging rights are bragging rights.
Remember that multi-mode exhaust system I mentioned before? Under hard acceleration, it sounds more alive than the standard Mustang GT’s active exhaust system, complete with pops, burbles, and bangs on overrun. These are small touches, but they certainly help to make the Bullitt feel more special, and just a bit more agro than the standard car.
Ford didn’t just do this with software tweaks alone. There is actually a new cold-air intake, and the GT350’s intake manifold has been fitted to the Mustang Bullitt. There is also a larger 87 millimetre throttle body.
Behind the wheel
Ford won’t sell you a Mustang Bullitt with an automatic transmission. The only gearbox available is the six-speed manual, complete with the cue-ball shift knob. The crosshair emblem on the rear decklid makes a re-appearance on the steering wheel’s airbag cover in place of the traditional Mustang logo.
There is also green contrast stitching throughout, and the traditional dash material is replaced with a nice brushed aluminium finish, complete with a Bullitt dash plaque featuring the car’s serial number on the passenger’s side.
The rest of the cabin is what you’d expect from a well-equipped top trim 2019 Ford Mustang. There are two gauges for the oil pressure and vacuum pressure above the infotainment system, and a 12-inch digital instrument cluster between the speedometer and tachometer, complete with a unique Mustang Bullitt starting graphic. And as an optional extra, a pair of excellent Recaro bucket seats.
Wrapping it up
All of these mechanical and software changes aside, those looking for improved dynamics in the Bullitt probably will miss the point of the car entirely.
Sure, the changes yield some dynamic improvements, but the 2019 Mustang is already an excellent handling car. The agility offered by a modern day Mustang could have surely convinced actor Steve McQueen to set aside his Jaguar XKSS.
The point of the 2019 Mustang Bullitt is to make its driver feel a certain sense of nostalgia, a sense of being the cool kid on the block, and or somewhere in between. Although the car itself is actually a subdued-looking beast, in this regard, the Bullitt succeeds in spades.