Special Coverage

Greater LA Auto Show

DEARBORN, MI – Ford Motor Co. celebrates the 40th anniversary of the classic car movie “Bullitt” with a special-edition Mustang of the same name.

The movie featured a ’68 Mustang driven by actor Steve McQueen in what some consider one of the greatest car-chase sequences ever filmed.

In the ’08 Mustang Bullitt, which debuts at next week’s L.A. auto show, Ford sought to recapture the spirit of the film and its muscle-car star.

“We actually poured over the movie and looked at it and stopped it frame by frame and took some digital shots – whatever we needed to do to get the essence of the original car in this one,” says Doug Gaffka, Mustang chief designer.

To duplicate the original car’s essence, designers took a less-is-more approach, Gaffka says.

“That car was iconic, not only because it was in the movie but also because of what it didn’t have on it,” he tells Ward's here at a media preview.

The ’08 Bullitt’s grille lacks Mustang’s pony emblem, which for unknown reasons also was absent from the movie car, says Gakffa, speculating it may have been an attempt to avoid paying royalties to Ford.

In addition, all other exterior badges and logos are removed from the ’08 Bullitt, as well as scoops and spoilers. The only identifier is the word Bullitt, which appears in a gun-sight graphic in the center of a faux gas cap on the decklid.

“Mustang is, and always has been, such an icon that’s it’s recognizable without the badges,” Gaffka says, describing the ’08 special edition as “a wolf in sheep’s clothing.”

The ’08 Bullitt will sticker at $31,075, including destination and delivery. Only 7,700 units will be made available for sale in the U.S. and Canada.

Expected to reach dealers early next year, the car will be available in two colors: black and Dark Highland Green. The latter is a close match to the movie car’s color.

The understated design theme continues on the front fascia, where Ford designers installed a new black-mesh grille accented by a satin aluminum strip.

Unique dual-exhaust tips and dark-gray brake calipers round out the exterior changes.

Inside, the most significant enhancement is a hand-machined, aluminum-swirl dash applique.

“The graphic presentation brings back the feel of the ’60s, while staying true to the Mustang’s modern interior design,” Gaffka says.

Satin aluminum also encircles the air vents and gauges, which are complimented by an aluminum shift knob and aluminum-covered pedals.

The car rides on dark-gray 18-in. aluminum wheels wrapped in the same Goodrich g-Force tires used on Mustangs at the Ford Racing High Performance Driving School at Miller Motorsports Park in Utah, the auto maker says.

Gaffka says the latest iteration of the Bullitt was easier to develop than its predecessor, which bowed in ’01, because it is based on the current-generation Mustang.

“The last-generation Mustang was somewhat more difficult to work with in terms that they didn’t design the car from the start to be able to do feature cars as readily,” he says.

“This one, we actually had ways of taking bits and pieces off and not having to cover them up or have holes that existed, like on the other car’s quarter panel,” he says. “This car was very clean to begin with.”

The new Bullitt also gets numerous performance enhancements, including a modified chassis and suspension, which Ford says fine-tunes the handling characteristics of the car. The live rear axle, borrowed from the Shelby GT500 Mustang, provides a 3.73:1 gear ratio for better launches.

Powering the ’08 Bullitt is a modified version of the Mustang’s 4.6L V-8 engine that delivers 315 hp and peak torque of 325 lb.-ft. (441 Nm). It is mated to a Tremac 5-spd. manual transmission. Top speed is 151 mph (243 km/h), Ford says.

With the assistance of Ford Racing engineers, the engine was recalibrated to increase throttle response, Ford says.

The car also boasts an open-element air filter, the first use of such a filter in a factory-produced, fuel-injected Mustang. The intake is tucked behind the driver’s-side headlamp inside a specially designed air box.

The hood liner also was modified to fully seal the air box, so the engine gets a steady flow of cool air.

“The new cold-air intake has shown reduction in rise over ambient temperature from 50 Fo (10 Co) down to 17 Fo (-8 Co),” says Paul Randle, chief engineer. “That equates to more horsepower and more torque in all driving conditions.”

An adaptive-spark ignition further boosts engine performance and allows the car to run on either premium or regular fuel, although Ford recommends premium for best results.

Bullitt’s custom-designed dual-exhaust system features 3.5-in. (8.9 cm) chrome tips, Ford says. The exhaust system is tuned to minimize backpressure, maximize horsepower and provide the car with a unique exhaust note.

bpope@wardsauto.com