SAN FRANCISO, CA. — Mustang, the chameleon of the muscle-car world, has morphed again.
And the result, this 2002 limited-edition model, rekindles what is, arguably, the most glorious eight minutes of the nameplate's storied history: Steve McQueen's frantic pursuit of a jet-black Dodge Charger through this city by the bay. The movie: Bullitt. The year: 1968. The new car: Mustang Bullitt GT.
Althoughexercises historic license with the appearance of its ’01 Mustang Bullitt GT, it preserves the late Mr. McQueen's obvious passion for Lee Iacocca's hobbyhorse. From the throaty roar that starts from deep inside the fastback to the unique “Dark Highland Green” that graces its sleek exterior, the car accomplishes what Hau Thai-Tang set out to accomplish.
“I told the team to deliver an addictive driving experience,” says's chief engineer-lifestyle vehicles.
Bullitt alternately tempts and satisfies as you cycle through the gears, first through fourth and back to first again. There's a fifth cog in the transmission, but it was not even an option winding through San Francisco's steep, narrow inclines — with the Charger fishtailing away in our mind's eye.
Of the 265-hp Bullitt's power to evoke emotion (that's just 5 hp more than delivered by the 4.6L SOHC V-8 in the standard GT, unfortunately), Ford vice president-North America Car, Chris Theodore says: “If you don't think, even for a nanosecond, that you're Steve McQueen, you're not alive.”
Key to creating the experience is Ford's focus on “high-leverage touch points.” The steering wheel. The shifter, with its aluminum knob and matching bezel. The bare metal pedals, which are thoughtfully configured closer together to accommodate heel-toe downshifting.
Currently available, Ford is building 6,000 Bullitts, which retail for about $27,000. And although the car is most definitely a homage to Steve McQueen, the automaker freely admits it's also a bid to keep the Mustang front and center in its segment and first in the hearts of its devotees.
“The Mustang customer base, as a profile, has a strong need for personal identity in their cars,” says a Ford spokesman. “Whether it's being seen, racing, being heard, whatever, this just becomes the canvas to allow them to do that. So whether it's a base GT, whether it's a Bullitt, a Saleen, a Steeda, it's all Mustang. It builds Mustang, it strengthens Mustang.”