The 2019 Ford Mustang Bullitt would most certainly be McQueen-approved
A late-model black Dodge Charger speeds down Broadway as I’m about to pull out of the Ace Hotel parking lot in downtown Los Angeles. Game on. The Bullitt Mustang slips into morning traffic as I step through the gears of the short-throw manual. The 5.0-liter V-8 growls from its ravenous intake and beautifully tuned exhaust.
[This article originally ran in Hagerty magazine, the exclusive publication of the Hagerty Drivers Club. For the full, in-the-flesh experience of our world-class magazine—as well other great benefits like roadside assistance and automotive discounts—join HDC today.]
I am, for the duration of the drive, Steve McQueen. This is automotive cosplay at its finest. You want this car because you’ve watched Lt. Frank Bullitt chase down that Charger in his 1968 Highland Green Mustang a hundred times on screen. And this 2019 Mustang delivers the experience.
The morning traffic has that Charger hiding, but I’m still smiling. Let’s be honest: The Bullitt package is the equivalent of hair and makeup to look the part. This is Hollywood, after all. Eventually, rush-hour gridlock provides an opportunity to examine all the movie nods and touches in the cabin.
The Recaro seats are surprisingly comfortable, much better than the ones in my daily driver ’17 Ford Focus ST. Dark green stitching matches the exterior paint. The cue-ball shifter is tilted slightly toward the driver for that millisecond of added responsiveness. Grip it, and you’re transported back to the best years of the muscle-car era. You will not forget what Mustang you’ve bought as you scan the interior. Bullitt logos litter the dash, doorsills, and center of the steering wheel where there’s usually a pony. You wanted to be McQueen, right?
At the Third Street tunnel in downtown L.A., the exhaust becomes a symphony played forte. If you don’t almost laugh out loud at the ridiculousness of this car’s voice, which sounds like the product of a two-packa-day habit of Pall Malls, you must not be from Detroit. The dual exhaust with quad tips has a slick-looking black finish, and you can dial it down to quietly creep through the neighborhood on your way to work. I didn’t even play with that option. Give me full roar, please, Mr. Ford.
Still rocking back and forth between first and second gears, I get a lot of stares and thumbs-ups from passersby in the surrounding lanes and on street corners. No one asks what the car is—they just know. The Bullitt resurgence has reached pinnacle fandom, with the discovery of the original movie car in a Tennessee garage brought to light by Ford, Hagerty, and the Historic Vehicle Association at the 2018 Detroit auto show. It’s the very car that Mr. McQueen desperately tried to buy for his own garage several years after the movie wrapped. He was denied.
The 2019 Mustang I’m slowly pushing through Los Angeles debuted next to its 1960s movie star grandpa on Ford’s Detroit show stage, along with Bullitt Mustangs from 2001 and 2008. This one, introduced in Motown by McQueen’s granddaughter, Molly, would have had him smiling.
The galloping stallion in the grille is gone, too, the area left empty and black in lieu of slapping another Bullitt tag there. Good call. On the back end of the car, however, “Bullitt” finds its way onto a fake fuel cap. Not subtle, but another nice throwback to the original film.
More subtle are the black 19-inch Torq Thrust alloy wheels, punctuated by standard red Brembo brake calipers. The Bullitt profile broadcasts a whole lot of sinister performance packed under that Dark Highland Green paint. We understand you can get the Bullitt in other exterior colors. Why would you want to? Would you buy a KITT Pontiac Firebird replica in red? A Bandit Trans Am in yellow? You’re Lt. Frank behind the wheel of this thing, dammit.
Finally, an open road appears at the Fourth Street Bridge over the L.A. River, and I find what the higher gears and 480 horses hold. This is not hilly San Francisco, but it’ll do just fine. A few button pushes find Sport Plus mode, which disables the most restrictive driver aids. Gripping the wheel as the back end slides in a controlled dance, I take corners purposefully hard in the vacant warehouse district streets. This is the pure joy of driving an angry machine, right here. The sound emanating from the back as you check “down” in the gearbox is quite the burble. The perfect complement to siren screams as you work your way up the box.
Ford introduced a bunch of performance and handling goodies on the 2018 Mustang GT, which we reviewed in our March/April 2018 issue. But everything on the Bullitt is just a little…extra. One inch more on the wheels, standard. A 3.73 Torsen limited-slip rear axle, standard. Selectable driving modes, standard. You get the idea. You also get all the shock firmness, roll stiffness, and disc-brake venting you need to look good at speed. They sure do plant this Bullitt firmly on the road. And that sound!
My heart pumping considerably faster than when I’d left the hotel in the morning light, I park the Mustang outside a diner to catch a breather and grab a bite. From my window table, I can gaze at the Bullitt resting under a gorgeous piece of graffiti art. The Bullitt Mustang is a masterpiece itself, elevating an already impressive sports car to a higher level of awesome. Sitting there at the curb, it just looks the part. Cool. You feel cooler driving it. Just like Steve McQueen.
Now, where’s that black Charger?