The Highland Green fastback that Steve McQueen drove in the movie was revealed in surprise 'mystery car' unveiling
Dana Mecum, founder and president of Mecum Auctions, dropped a bombshell Wednesday in Monterey, revealing to a media gathering that one of the world’s most famous cars, the 1968 Ford Mustang GT fastback driven by Steve McQueen in the movie Bullitt, would cross the block during the auction company’s January sale in Kissimmee, Florida.
Mecum made the announcement after teasing the media with his invitation to the press conference, keeping the car a secret other than calling it “one of the most highly sought-after automobiles of all-time” and a “widely and publicly exalted vehicle of unparalleled pop-culture and historic significance.”
Dana Mecum revealed the Mustang the day before the start of the company’s Monterey auction, held August 15-17.
The Highland Green Bullitt Mustang is certainly a cultural icon after rampaging through the streets of San Francisco in the iconic chase sequence, which influenced decades of movies chases to come.
The car was believed to have been lost or destroyed for more than 40 years until early last year when it was revealed that a family had it in their possession in secret storage.
Two identical Mustangs were used in the filming of Bullitt, the “hero” car for the close-up scenes and the “jump” car for the action sequences. This Mustang was the hero car, which avoided getting battered (too much) during the making of the film. The jump car was unearthed last year in Mexico in derelict condition.
The Bullitt Mustang has been consigned to the Kissimmee auction, Mecum’s largest of the year, by Sean Kiernan, the son of the man who bought the second-hand movie car in 1974. The car was used by his mother, a third-grade teacher, as a daily driver for years until it was put away for safe keeping, said Kiernan, who joined Mecum in making the announcement.
During more than 40 years of ownership, his dad, Robert Kiernan, kept the identity of the Mustang under wraps; its continuing existence was unknown until it was unveiled by Ford at the January 2018 Detroit auto show.
“He told us that the car was special, but not how special,” Kiernan said. “I had been walking past it for 45 years.”
While the Mustang was technically the hero car, it was used extensively while filming action scenes after the jump car became too damaged, Kiernan added. “It was in 90 percent of the chase.”
The car, with Sean Kiernan always close at hand, has been shown since its reveal at many prestigious events, even appearing at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., to be installed into the national registry of historic vehicles.
Ever the showman, Mecum pulled a “magic trick” on the journalists and visitors at the media event. He started off speaking before a huge enclosure covered by black cloth, in which it had been presumed that the mystery car was standing.
But when the cloth was pulled back, the glass case was empty, and Mecum feigned shock and surprise. Moments later, the Mustang rumbled forth from another area, driven by Kiernan, toward the awe-struck group.
The GT fastback remains cosmetically in original condition, showing the scrapes, blemishes and minor dents from its time as a movie car and his mom’s driver, Kiernan noted. He said he hopes that whomever gets the car will keep it as is, respecting it as a historic artifact.
“Every nick and dent tells a story,” he said.
Mecum expects the Bullitt Mustang to be the highest-priced muscle car ever sold at auction when it goes on the block in Florida, noting that the car will be sold at no reserve. “The America market will decide what it’s worth.”
He also contends that the Mustang has transcended being a mere automobile.
“It’s not a car anymore; it’s a piece of art,” Mecum said. “To my knowledge, this will be the first muscle car sold as a piece of art.”
Mecum’s Kissimmee, Florida, auction will take place January 2-12 with 4,000 vehicles expected to cross the block. For more information, visit the auction website.