HomeCar CultureLifestyleThis was the year of the Steve McQueen ‘Bullitt’ Mustang

This was the year of the Steve McQueen ‘Bullitt’ Mustang


Editor’s note: As each year draws to a close, the Journal polls its editors and correspondents to determine what we consider to be the top-10 stories from the collector car world during the past 12 months. Check out the other top stories here.

Just months after the jump car from the Steve McQueen film Bullitt was found in Mexico, the owners of the hero car — the modified 1968 Ford Mustang that starred in the closeups — allowed it to be shown to the world after keeping it hidden away for years.

The car was used in the filming of the film’s iconic chase scene, which is arguably one of the best ever to hit the silver screen. The car only grew in fame over the years, as its whereabouts were kept secret for decades.

The Bullitt Mustang made its return to the spotlight at the North American International Auto Show in January at Detroit alongside Ford’s latest tribute to the movie car. It was revealed that Robert Kiernan bought the McQueen-driven car in 1974 and used it as a daily driver for some time before storing it away.

Original (left) and new Bullitt Mustangs | Ford photo

Kiernan’s son, Sean, inherited the car and it was he who contacted Ford about taking it to the auto show. To say the automotive world was excited would be a massive understatement. Here was not only the Bullitt Mustang, but the Kiernans had not restored it, leaving intact all its movie bumps and bruises.

The Mustang became the 21st automobile on the National Historic Vehicle Register and it was taken to numerous car shows — both in the United States and abroad, including both the Amelia Island Concours and the Goodwood Festival of Speed — always with Kiernan by its side.

During an interview at the annual SEMA Show in Las Vegas, he said he would always travel with the car and be the one to take care of it.

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

“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. He also doesn’t allow anyone else to drive the car.

Though 2018 is coming to a close, that doesn’t mean the chance for fans to see the Bullitt Mustang is over, especially considering Kiernan is using the car to raise awareness for Parkinson’s disease.

The car will be at LeMay – America’s Car Museum in Tacoma, Washington until April 25, when it returns back to Kiernan’s garage in Tennessee.

Carter Nacke
Carter Nacke
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.


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