G. Chambers Williams

Ford adds a special Mustang Bullitt for 2019, recalling the movie original

In the paragraphs to follow, you will learn details of the 2019 Ford Mustang GT Bullitt special edition.

But if you’re among millennial or younger-generation readers who’ve never seen the1968 Steve McQueen film “Bullitt,” or at least the famous ’68 Mustang Fastback chase scene in the show, considered by many to be the best movie car chase of all time, you might first want to call it up and watch it on You Tube.

That’s what I did just before taking my 16-year-old grandson for a ride in our new Mustang GT Bullitt (base price $46,595 plus $900 freight) test vehicle. “Alexa, show me the Bullitt chase scene on You Tube” was all I had to say to my Amazon Fire TV Cube to get my huge Samsung 4K TV to cue up the chase clip for me.

McQueen, as a plainclothes police detective, pilots the Mustang in pursuit of two hitmen driving a Dodge Charger through the hilly streets of San Francisco for nearly 10 minutes. Watching the chase in a movie theater from McQueen’s perspective can make you a bit dizzy and cause your stomach to jump.

McQueen, who died in November 1980 at age 50 of lung cancer caused by asbestos exposure, was a part-time professional race driver and was behind the wheel during much of the chase scene.

Last year was the 50th anniversary of the film that gave McQueen perhaps his biggest claim to fame, and Ford decided to commemorate the milestone by creating a special Bullitt version of the 2019 Mustang GT. (Yes, by the model designation, it’s a year late for observing the 50th anniversary, but Ford released the new Bullitt Mustang late last summer 2018)

It’s based on the current generation of the Mustang GT, and comes only in the fastback coupe body style, which carries a lot of the ’68 fastback’s design DNA. But of course, this newest Bullitt Mustang is a fully modern vehicle with the latest safety and design technology, along with a 5.0-liter V-8 that cranks out 480 horsepower and 420 foot-pounds of torque.

Standard is a six-speed Getrag manual gearbox that includes the classic white “cue ball” shift knob like that of the’68 Bullitt car. It comes with a 3.73:1 Torsen rear end. (The GT’s optional 10-speed automatic is not available in the Bullitt version.)

The Bullitt GT has a published top speed of 163 mph, compared with 155 mph for the standard 2019 Mustang GT -- thanks to its performance open air intake, Mustang Shelby GT350 intake manifold and larger 87-millimeter throttle body, and unique powertrain control-module calibrations, Ford says.

Two exterior colors are available: Shadow Black and the original’s Dark Highland Green, which is the best choice and was included on our tester. There are subtle chrome accents for the unique black mesh grille and front windows, along with “heritage-inspired” 19-inch aluminum wheels and red-painted Brembo brake calipers visible through the wheels.

In keeping with the original, there is no pony emblem in the grille, which is just plain black mesh. There is a “Bullitt” logo on the phony round gas filler cap in the center of the rear end, where the gas cap was on the 1968 Mustang.

Inside, “Bullitt” is written on the doorsills and there’s a Bullitt logo in the center of the steering wheel. The seats and other interior surfaces such as the dashboard and door panels are black leather with unique green accent stitching on the dash, door panels, center console and seats. Included is a 12-inch all-digital LCD instrument cluster.

Interestingly, one of the two original 1968 Mustang GT fastbacks that were used in the movie was shown during the debut of the 2019 model at the 2018 Detroit auto show.

In addition, a third-generation member of the McQueen family, Molly, appeared in a special movie introducing the newest Bullitt Mustang at that auto show. In the film, she drives the new Mustang Bullitt through a parking building in pursuit of a Dodge Charger to get the only remaining parking space.

The 2019 Bullitt has all of the standard Mustang GT Premium and Performance Package content. Ours also came with the Bullitt Electronics Package ($2,100), which brought a navigation system (not even heard of in 1968, of course), memory for the driver’s seat and outside mirrors, an upgraded sound system and Blind Spot Information System with Cross-Traffic Alert.

Our vehicle also had the Magne Ride semi-active suspension damping system ($1,695)to boost driving performance.

There is a standard active-valve performance exhaust system with new Black Nitro Plate exhaust tips, retuned to give the car an exhaust sound similar to that of the Mustang in the “Bullitt” soundtrack.

There is a heated leather steering wheel and a unique Bullitt green welcome screen in the instrument-panel LCD that shows an image of the car rather than the pony in other GT models. Recaro black leather seats are optional.

After the film, which debuted Oct. 17, 1968, the two Mustangs used in the movie “went their separate ways: the hero vehicle driven by McQueen in the movie was sold by Warner Bros. to a private buyer, and the other – used in many of the jumps during the famous chase scene – was sent to a salvage yard,” Ford said in a release. The jumper vehicle was found in Baja, California, in early 2017.

The other one, which had the bigger role in the chase, was purchased in 1974 by a man in Tennessee, Robert Kiernan, and it has remained in his family ever since– kept secret and out of sight until recently. There is another YouTube video chronicling the family’s history with the car, which now is displayed at various car events across the nation.

This newest Bullitt GT is part of the Mustang’s sixth generation, and Ford says the design, while mostly new, was “clearly inspired by 50 years of Mustang heritage.” It doesn’t have as much of the retro look at the fifth generation, but Ford retained enough of the old look that the car still is readily identifiable as a Mustang, down to the signature taillights with the sequencing rear turn signals.

Both the new fastback coupe and the convertible include the Mustang’s signature long,sculpted hood and short rear deck, along with the tri-bar taillights. The car has a lower, wider stance, along with wider rear fenders and track.

Among standard GT Premium features are a backup camera, dual-zone automatic climate control, universal garage/gate opener, two USB ports in front of the shifter, Intelligent Access with pushbutton start, as well as Ford’s SYNC3 connectivity systems and Track Apps.

We had a blast driving the 2019 Mustang GT Bullitt, which turned heads everywhere we went. The power is hugely satisfying, and the automatic rev-matching feature of the manual transmission helps with smooth and easy shifting throughout its range.

The ride is sports-car rough, giving way to handling over rider comfort, but it was never harsh or punishing. Trunk space is 13.5 cubic feet.

For much of our testing, we had the maximum of four people on board, and even the rear passengers had decent leg and headroom.

Overall,this is one quite fun Mustang both to look at and to drive.

EPA ratings are 15 mpg city/24 highway/18 combined. But with my heavy foot, averaged just over 16 mpg in a mix of about 50-50 highway and city/country road driving.

Total sticker price, including freight and options, was a reasonable $51,290.

The automotive columns of G. Chambers Williams III have appeared regularly in the Star-Telegram since 1994. Contact him at chambers@star-telegram.com or on Twitter @gchambers3.

2019 Ford Mustang GT Bullitt fastback

The package: Special-edition, midsize,two-door, four-passenger, V-8 powered, rear-wheel drive sport coupe.

Highlights: Ford’s pony car got a special GT Bullitt model for 2019 in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Steve McQueen film “Bullitt” in 2018. It has special appearance cues and Bullitt logos.

Negatives: Trunk space is limited.

Engines: 5.0-liter V-8.

Transmissions: Six-speed Getrag manual.

Power/torque: 480 HP./420 foot-pounds.

Length: 188.5 inches.

Curb weight: 3,743 pounds.

Brakes, front/rear: Disc/disc, anti-lock.

Trunk volume: 13.5 cubic feet.

Side air bags: Front seat-mounted, standard.

Electronic stability control: Standard.

Fuel capacity/type: 16 gallons/unleaded premium necessary for full performance, but regular is acceptable.

EPA fuel economy: 15 mpg city/24 highway/18combined.

Major competitors: Chevrolet Camaro, Dodge Challenger.

Base price: $46,595 plus $900 freight.

Price as tested: $51,290, including freightand options (GT Premium Bullitt coupe, manual).

On the Road rating: 8.9 (of a possible 10).

Prices shown are manufacturer’s suggested retail; actual selling price may vary.

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