Bullitt cashes in on movie nostalgia
In the 1968 movie, “Bullitt”, San Francisco police detective Frank Bullitt, played by actor Steve McQueen, chases the bad guys through the streets of San Francisco in his dark green 1968 Mustang GT 390 fastback. Though the movie wasn’t particularly memorable, the car chase scene ranks as one of the better ones in movie history.
Thirty three years later, Ford decided there were enough fond memories of that car to introduce a modified version of the current Mustang GT called the ‘Bullitt’. Ford displayed a concept version of the car at 2000 Los Angeles Auto Show, and after a favourable response, decided to produce a limited production run. For the rest of the 2001 model year, 6,500 Bullitts will be produced in Ford’s Dearborn, Michigan assembly plant (500 for Canada), but there are no plans to continue production for the 2002 model year.
Some similarities with 1968 Mustang GT
Click image to enlarge
Though essentially a 2001 Mustang GT coupe, the Bullitt has some similarities with the 1968 Mustang GT, starting with the Dark Highland Green exterior paint, American Racing Torque Thrust alloy wheels with grey spokes and polished rims, smoothed-out side scoops, a blacked-out grille, different rocker panels, a curved ‘C’ pillar, and a cleaner trunk lip shape without a rear spoiler.
In addition, the Bullitt GT has some unique features which the ’68 Mustang didn’t have: an aluminum fuel filler door on the right rear fender, aluminum exhaust tips, a large, non-functional hood scoop, and a Bullitt badge. As well, the suspension has been lowered by 3/4 of an inch.
The Bullitt is available in True Blue and Black as well as the Dark Highland Green exterior colour.
Inside, the interior has some similarities with the 1968 Mustang. The speedometer and tachometer have graphics similar to the ’68 Mustang, the front leather seats have a similar stitching style (but much better side bolstering and head restraints), and the Bullitt’s aluminum shift knob resembles the Hurst shifter in the ’68 Mustang.
Unique to the 2001 Bullitt interior are aluminum door sills, aluminum door lock buttons, and attractive stainless steel pedal covers for the accelerator, brake and clutch. In addition, the brake and accelerator pedals were moved closer together to facilitate heel-and-toe gear-changing.
Each Bullitt has a special holographic identification plate under the hood which is individually numbered. Another identification plate is hidden somewhere on the vehicle to confirm its originality, just in case a future collector wants to confirm that it’s a ‘real’ Bullitt GT.
A modest increase in horsepower and a better manual transmission
The Bullitt GT uses the same 4.6 litre SOHC two-valve V8 engine as the Mustang GT coupe, but it has some modifications which improve horsepower and torque slightly. Modifications include twin 57 mm bore throttle bodies, cast aluminum intake manifold, revised alternator and pump pulley ratios, and high flow mufflers with a more aggressive exhaust note which sounds more like the 1968 Mustang.
The Bullitt’s engine develops 265 horsepower @ 5000 rpm and 305 lb-ft of torque @ 4000 rpm. That compares to the Mustang GT’s engine which produces 260 horsepower @ 5250 rpm and 302 lb-ft of torque @ 4000 rpm.
A more significant difference between the Bullitt and the current Mustang GT is a new TR3650 5-speed manual transmission which offers improved shift quality, and a new 11 inch flywheel and clutch assembly which increases torque capacity and reduces clutch pedal effort.
As well as being lowered by 3/4 of an inch, the Bullitt’s suspension features higher spring rates, revised Tokico shocks, stiffer stabilizer bars front and rear, and frame rail connectors to improve rigidity. Like the Mustang GT, the Bullitt has an independent front MacPherson strut suspension and a solid rear axle with coil springs and gas shocks.
Upgraded brakes are now Brembo 330 mm vented front discs in front, and 296 mm vented discs at the rear, both with distinctive red calipers. ABS is standard.
Nostalgic interior touches
Like the Mustang GT, the Bullitt GT is a four passenger coupe with adequate legroom and headroom for front passengers and minimal room for rear passengers. Since it is even lower than the regular Mustang GT, you have to bend down a little more to get into the cockpit.
Upon opening the door, the driver is greeted by the word “Bullitt” engraved in the aluminum rocker panels – very classy. The interior has the Mustang’s familiar dual-coweled design in a dark monotone colour with a black centre dash panel, and it has the features I mentioned: redesigned front seats, restyled gauges, an aluminum shifter knob (which I think is really plastic), and stainless steel pedals.
The round tachometer (which redlines at 5800 rpm) and the round speedometer have ’68-style white-on-black graphics – frankly, I found the numerals hard to read because the script is narrow and close together.
With a tilt steering wheel and power driver’s seat, it’s easy to find a good driving position, and though the cowl and window sills seems a bit high, outward visibility is quite good.
The shift lever is easy to reach (Bullitts are offered only with a manual transmission) and the clutch pedal effort is indeed lighter than in the Mustang GT.
As a derivative of the Mustang GT, the Bullitt offers a fairly high level of standard equipment including leather upholstery, a premium Mach 460 AM/FM/cassette/6-disc CD stereo, air conditioning, power windows and door locks, power driver’s seat, folding rear seatbacks, keyless entry, and anti-theft system.
Turn the ignition key, and the 4.6 litre V8 engine rumbles to life – and rumbles and rumbles and rumbles – the whole car vibrates as though trembling at the prospect of the performance soon to be unleashed. That may be a bit poetic, but the Bullitt’s 265 horsepower and 305 foot pounds of torque is good enough to turn in some very quick 0 to 100 km/h times, if you can keep the rear tires from spinning. From a standing start, this torquey V8 lights up the tires with ease, and like all Mustangs, the rear-end will brake loose in slippery conditions. Fortunately, the Bullitt has standard all-speed traction control which reduces the throttle input when the wheels start to spin. This is most useful when accelerating out of a corner on a wet road – instead of the back end suddenly flipping around, the engine cuts power and the car regains traction.
Personally, I preferred to leave the traction control off in dry conditions and rely on my right foot to apply the right amount of acceleration when necessary.
The downside with this V8 engine is that it runs out of steam at about 5500 rpm. Though it’s a single overhead cam engine, it has only two valves per cylinder which limits engine breathing, and thus peak horsepower. And as you might expect, fuel consumption is not particularly thrifty: 13.4 l/100 km (21 mpg) in the city and 8.7 l/100 km (32 mpg) on the highway – these optimistic Transport Canada figures assume that you treat the accelerator pedal gently and shift early, just like typical Mustang owners…
I found the revised 5-speed manual shifter to be a big improvement – it’s got a direct, mechanical feel and easier shift effort. It makes mechanical gear noises when you shift which reminds me of transmissions back in the 60’s and 70’s. I guess that could be considered part of the character of this ‘retro’ car.
With a rear-wheel-drive layout, the Mustang has a fairly even front to rear weight ratio, and the Bullitt offers excellent handling and very high cornering limits on smooth, paved roads, due in part to its wide, low-profile Goodyear P245/45ZR-17 inch performance tires, tuned suspension, and lower ride height. It will oversteer at the limit of traction, but it can be corrected easily by turning into the direction of the skid with the steering wheel.
The Bullitt’s suspension is fairly stiff, and I found it uncomfortable over poorly paved city streets over freeway and bridge expansion joints. On uneven roads, the solid rear axle provides a bumpier ride and less directional stability than with an independent rear suspension. On the plus side, the Bullitt’s body feels tight – tighter than other Mustangs. The current Mustang platform now dates back to 1993, but the Bullitt modifications help to make this the most contemporary Mustang yet.
Even if you’ve never seen the movie Bullitt and don’t know who Steve McQueen is, you can enjoy the numerous advantages the Bullitt has over the standard Mustang GT – namely, a tighter body and improved handling, a better manual transmission, a lighter clutch, better brakes, and a little more horsepower.
Suggested Retail Price
The Bullitt GT package is a $5,695 option on top of the standard Mustang GT Coupe with the midnight black interior which currently retails for $30,525 – that brings the total to $36,220 plus freight of $835.
The Bullitt Mustang has few rear-drive, V8-powered competitors – rumour has it that the Camaro and Firebird will be discontinued next year, so the Mustang may end up being the last American rear-drive pony car on the market – and the Bullitt Mustang one of the better Mustangs.
|Ford Mustang Bullitt GT|
|Price as tested||$835|
|Type||2-door, 4 passenger coupe|
|Layout||longitudinal front engine/rear-wheel-drive|
|Engine||4.6 litre V8, SOHC, 16 valves|
|Horsepower||265 @ 5000 rpm|
|Torque||305 lb-ft @ 4000 rpm|
|Transmission||5 speed manual|
|Curb weight||1485 kg (3273 lb.)|
|Wheelbase||2573 mm (101.3 in.)|
|Length||4653 mm (183.2 in.)|
|Width||1857 mm (73.1 in.)|
|Height||1331 mm (52.4 in.)|
|Cargo capacity||309 litres (10.9 cu. ft.)|
|Fuel consumption||City: 13.4 l/100 km (21 mpg)|
|Hwy: 8.7 l/100 km (32 mpg)|
|Warranty||3 yrs/60,000 km|