Following the re-appearance of a genuine ‘Bullitt’ movie Mustang last year, a second car has just come to light
Ford revealed a ‘Bullitt’ version of its latest Mustang at Detroit, in Highland Green and suitably sparse in its detailing, to mark the 50th anniversary of the film. The launch was special because the new car (with a hefty 475bhp and an aural output to match) was joined on stage by an original 1968 film car that hasn’t been seen for nearly 40 years.
Two Mustang GTs were used in Bullitt, one for stunts, the other – known as 559 from the final digits of its chassis number – for everything else. Octane reported last March on the discovery of the battered stunt car in a scrapyard in Mexico. The other, the so-called ‘halo’ car, is the one that finally broke cover at the North American International Motor Show.
While 559 was never lost in the way that the stunt car was, it led a reclusive existence after Steve McQueen’s film. It passed through two post-movie owners before being bought in 1974 by Bob Kiernan, who resisted all McQueen’s efforts to buy it for himself.
In 1977 McQueen made his last bid to buy the car, offering to find Kiernan an alternative Mustang ‘if there is not too much monies involved with it’. But Kiernan didn’t want to deal. His wife used 559 to commute to work until the clutch failed in 1980, and for two decades it sat in the Kiernans’ garage, moving house from time to time with its owners.SEE RELATED: The 'other' Bullitt Mustang found in Mexican scrap yard
In 2001 Bob and son Sean decided to make the Mustang driveable again and took it to pieces for overhaul. The engine was rebuilt in 2008, but Bob died in 2014. It was only when Sean subsequently contacted Mustang authority Kevin Marti to authenticate the car for a possible film project that it came back on the radar.
Having reassembled 559 for Marti’s inspection and restarted its engine on 4 July 2016, Sean was then advised to call insurance company boss McKeel Hagerty to get 559 on the US’s National Historic Vehicle Register. Then Ford got involved, culminating in the sensational re-appearance at Detroit.
The Mustang is still unrestored, and bears all the signs of its film role including camera mounts, a sticky residue on the tacho from a label warning McQueen not to over-rev, and a large amount of filler down one flank following an incident in filming. McQueen’s granddaughter Molly – who was shown 559 last year – drives a new Bullitt in a race with a (new) Dodge Charger for a parking space for the new model’s TV advertisment.
Like his father, Sean Kiernan has no plans to part with the Mustang: ‘My dad and I always talked about enlisting Ford to bring our car back into public view.’
Words: John Simister