What’s next for the original ‘Bullitt’ Mustang?

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If you missed out on seeing the original Bullitt Mustang, don't worry. The tour will continue. | Shell photo
If you missed out on seeing the original Bullitt Mustang, don't worry. The tour will continue. | Shell photo

Editor’s note: Get more news from the 2018 SEMA Show in Las Vegas by checking out our dedicated page.


Amid all the glitz and glam at the annual SEMA Show at the Las Vegas Convention Center sat the original Ford Mustang used in the Bullitt film. The appearance, along with that of owner Sean Kiernan, was part of an international tour that won’t be coming to an end anytime soon.

“It’s been fantastic,” Kiernan said outside of the Shell booth where the car was parked.

“As long as the car is good, I’m good,” he added.

And the car looked great. Its dark green paint still shows the wear and tear put on a movie car and that original look is something Kiernan wants to leave in place, just as his father did after purchasing the car in 1974.

Kiernan pulls back the sheet on the delightfully blemished original Bullitt Mustang at the 2018 SEMA Show held at the Las Vegas Convention Center. | Shell photo
Kiernan (right) pulls back the sheet on the delightfully blemished original Bullitt Mustang at the 2018 SEMA Show held at the Las Vegas Convention Center. | Shell photo

“This is a timeline of my life and I’m not one to erase history,” he said, adding that preserving the car — paint cracks, rust and all — is far more difficult than restoring it.

Kiernan plans to continue to share that history with the world. He’s already taken the car (with the help of sponsors) across the United States and a few events overseas, including the annual Goodwood Festival of Speed. He planned to take the Mustang to California after SEMA and, eventually, to Le May – America’s Car Museum in Tacoma, Washington.

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Kiernan stands next to the original Bullitt Mustang his father bought 44 years ago. | Shell photo
Kiernan stands next to the original Bullitt Mustang his father bought 44 years ago. | Shell photo

But staff there won’t be working on the Mustang. Instead, Kiernan plans to fly from his home in Nashville, Tennessee, to the Pacific Northwest to perform any needed maintenance or even to move the car within the museum, should that be needed.

“I’ll always be the one that puts in the blood, sweat and tears,” he said, adding that he doesn’t want to place the burden of caring for the vehicle on anyone else.

The Mustang won’t be a permanent fixture in the museum. Instead, it will split time between Tacoma and Kiernan’s garage.

“I’m getting good at not having anxiety with it not being in there (the garage), but I know she’ll be back,” he said.

Not that planning an excursion is simple. Kiernan said a lot of factors come into play when taking the car from event to event. He joked that the car should be nicknamed “Change of Plans” because of the frequent alterations in his schedule.

The 2018 SEMA Show was hardly the last chance to see the original Bullitt Mustang. | Carter Nacke photo
The 2018 SEMA Show was hardly the last chance to see the original Bullitt Mustang. | Carter Nacke photo

When asked if he planned to sell the car, Kiernan said he wouldn’t dream of it. He said the only people who he would even consider offering the car to would never buy it because they know how much it means to him.

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So if you were worried about missing out on seeing the Bullitt Mustang, you needn’t worry. Kiernan said he will continue to tote the car around so fans can catch a glimpse and so he can preserve the memory of his father while raising awareness for the neurodegenerative disorder that claimed his father’s life.

“I can honor my father and bring awareness to Parkinson’s,” he said.

But Kiernan is also benefiting from the tour.

“It’s made me a better person,” he said.

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Carter Nacke is a graduate of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University. He began his career at KTAR News 92.3 FM in Phoenix, the largest news radio station in Arizona, where he specialized in breaking news and politics. A burgeoning interest in classic cars took him to the Journal in 2018. He's still on the hunt for his dad's old 1969 Camaro.

8 COMMENTS

  1. I remember reading a collector/perf. car magazine YEARS AGO, in which the director(Hal Needham stunts??) replied that the ‘Stang needed a ton of reinforcing , and massaging the engine to get it to keep up with a basiclly stock Charger!!….that being said, it’s an iconic cool looking CAR!!!

  2. I watched Bullit yesterday The car sounds phenomenal in the movie and the sounds when Steve McQueen is shifting in the high speed car chase with the Black Dodge Charger Awesome!

  3. One of the elements of watching the greatest car chase on film is that it was done partial on the hills of SF. The other is the exhaust sound. Does anyone know what type of exhaust it has or was it headers and straight pipe?

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