Modern Classics: 2001 Ford Mustang Bullitt modern classics auto articles
2001 Ford Mustang Bullitt. Click image to enlarge

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By Jeff Burry

The Ford Mustang has graced the roadways of North America for more than 45 years, and during that time the Ford Motor Company has produced numerous variants. Some of the more recognizable names of these are Mach 1, Shelby, Saleen and SVO, while some of the lesser known names might be King Cobra, High Country Special and Challenger.

As Ford approached the new millennium, engineers and designers were busy creating yet one more variant that would pay homage to the 1968 action film titled “Bullitt.” In this movie, actor Steve McQueen, sporting a brown tweed jacket and playing the role of Detective Frank Bullitt, drives a Dark Highland Green Ford Mustang fastback through the streets of San Francisco.

The movie itself was made famous due to an eight-minute car chase scene which to this day is arguably the best ever captured on film. With the “too cool” Steve McQueen behind the wheel of this Mustang it is perhaps the ultimate guy movie, complete with fast cars and fast women.

In the movie, McQueen tosses the car around the streets of San Francisco chasing a 1968 Dodge Charger. Obvious to everyone at the time, the Mustang would win with the Charger and its occupants meeting a fiery demise.

In an effort to resurrect that 1968 Mustang 21st century style, Ford released the Mustang Bullitt. The car actually made its Canadian debut at the Montreal Auto Show on January 24, 2000. Unlike some of the previous variants, this Bullitt edition was more than just a pretty face. It was a modern interpretation that saw enhancements to the Mustang GT’s powertrain, suspension and brakes.

Modern Classics: 2001 Ford Mustang Bullitt modern classics auto articles
Modern Classics: 2001 Ford Mustang Bullitt modern classics auto articles
2001 Ford Mustang Bullitt. Click image to enlarge

The heart of the Bullitt is a 4.6-litre SOHC (Single Over Head Cam) V8 modified to improve airflow and producing 265 horsepower and a very respectable 305 lb-ft of torque. To further add some “grunt” to the Bullitt, Ford added twin 57-mm bore throttle bodies, cast aluminum intake, underdrive pulleys, unique stabilizer bars, re-valved Tokico shocks and high-flow mufflers. If that wasn’t enough, to further enhance the GT’s handling, Ford lowered the car by three-quarters of an inch.

Stopping this “detective” are upgraded thirteen-inch Brembo brakes and high-performance calipers painted red and sporting the pony logo. Additional stopping capability is provided compliments of the P245/45ZR17-inch Goodyear rubber which wraps the 17-inch Torq-Thrust style rims.

To further differentiate this GT from its siblings, Ford modified the C-pillars and quarter panels, added a brushed aluminum fuel-filler door, rolled the tips of the exhaust and affixed the word Bullitt to the rear panel (where normally the GT emblem would be placed). All in all, a very neat and tidy “special edition” Ford Mustang GT sans rear spoiler and fog lamps.

Subtle and not-so-subtle enhancements were also made to the interior of the Bullitt. Upon a quick glance one might notice the brushed-aluminum foot pedals, shifter “cue” ball and bezel. Not so obvious was the fact that the foot pedals were positioned closer together on this GT for quick heel-to-toe movement while shifting through the manual five-speed gearbox (an automatic transmission was simply not available on the Bullitt).

The interior of the Bullitt also provided its occupants with uniquely-styled seats wrapped in dark charcoal leather trim, a unique heritage instrument cluster and sill plates with a moulded-in Bullitt nomenclature.

Colour choices ranged from the original Dark Highland Green (preferred colour to the original 1968 Mustang Fastback), to True Blue and even Black. If further identification might be required for this special breed of Mustang, a holographic serialization sticker could be found under the hood on the shock tower (driver’s side) and another may possibly be found under the rear seat. This second sticker was hidden by Ford in an attempt to prevent “counterfeiting” in the future.

In 2000/2001, if ordering this special edition Mustang, the order would have been placed here in Canada specifying Order Code 135A (Bullitt Package) with a package price of $5,695 (MSRP) bringing the total cost in at just over $37,000. If you may be wondering just how many of these Bullitt Mustangs were manufactured by Ford, research suggests that approximately 6,500 were produced for the 2001 model year with just less than 500 making their way into Canadian dealerships.

The Bullitt definitely represents a more performance-oriented Mustang GT complete with all the trimmings, and there is no mistaking this car from the rest of the herd. It offered an instant connection to the movie and more specifically the now-famous chase scene.

As a piece of movie trivia and something that may be of interest, there were actually two 1968 Mustang GTs used in the movie, both equipped with the Ford 390 cubic inch V8 powerplant. Both vehicles were modified slightly to handle the tossing around they received on the streets of San Francisco, literally taking flight in certain scenes.

Once filming was completed one of the Mustangs was sent to the salvage yard, while the second was sold to an MGM employee and later changed hands a number of times. Its current owner has been approached a number of times but apparently is unwilling to sell.

There is a lot of information that can be found on the web but perhaps the most informative site is IMBOC (International Mustang Bullitt Owners Club). There you will find anything and everything related to the Bullitt Mustang – both past and present.

So whether you are just interested in some movie trivia surrounding this car and the movie itself, or are perhaps in the market to buy one or simply modify the one you own, this site will provide you with a plethora of information.

Hmmm – think I will throw that DVD into the player and look for that old tweed jacket of mine!