When the late Robert Kiernan put the Bullitt Mustang on up blocks, where it would spent a couple of decades, he also parked the 1975 Porsche 911 he’d driven only 100 miles since buying the sports car.
Now, Kiernan’s son, Sean, says it’s time to get that Porsche back on the road, and that project is only one of the reasons he’s decided to sell the historic Steve McQueen movie “hero” car at Mecum’s Kissimmee, Florida, collector car auction in January.
By the way, the car will cross the auction block with no reserve price. High bidder gets the car.
Why not put a reserve price on such a car?
“I’m not doing this twice,” Sean Kiernan responded, acknowledging the emotional decision to sell, and knowing that if he set a reserve that was not met on the auction block, he’d face repeating the selling experience at a later date.
It has been a wild 22-month ride for Kiernan since it was revealed that his family owned the Dark Highland Green 1968 Mustang that McQueen drove in Bullitt. The car was one of two such Mustangs used in the filming. This was the “hero” car used for closeups. There also was a stunt car for the chase scenes.
The Kiernans bought the “hero” car as a used vehicle in 1974 and it became the daily driver for Sean’s school-teacher mother, Robbie, until it was put away for safe keeping and then would become a closely guarded family secret, especially as the internet blossomed and people who believed the car had to be someplace started doing daily VIN searches.
Among the few non-family members who knew about the car was Mustang expert Kevin Marti. When Sean Kiernan learned that Ford was working on its own new Bullitt Mustang, he asked Marti to contact Ford to see if it was interested in using the real Bullitt as part of the version’s promotional effort.
“We wanted to do tell the right story,” Kiernan said of the decision to reveal the car’s ownership and its history.
Starting with the new Mustang’s unveiling at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit in January 2018, Kiernan and the real Bullitt embarked on a promotional tour that took them across the country and even to England for the Goodwood Festival of Speed.
I wanted to see if I could live without it, without a Bullitt-shaped hole in my garage.”
But the travel and time away from home were wearing. So when LeMay-America’s Car Museum in Tacoma, Washington, asked about putting the car on display for a few months, Kiernan agreed.
“I wanted to see if I could live without it, without a Bullitt-shaped hole in my garage,” Kiernan said.
When he learned that he could, indeed, live without the car, he knew it was time to sell.
Like selling one of your children?
“Like selling a sister,” he responded. “She was my Dad’s baby. It was a very hard decision.”
But, Kiernan was confident, given the opportunity and the publicity and the car’s value, his father would have sold the car much sooner.
“He wanted a house in Florida,” Kiernan said.
What Kiernan wants to do is to be home and to add a few more retired thoroughbred horses to his family’s farm. Speaking of his family, Kiernan and his wife are expecting their third child within the next few days. Citing a mysterious bond between family and car, noted that each of their children was born in the same year that Ford introduced each new version of the Bullitt: 2001, 2008 and now 2019.
Once he’d made the decision to sell the car, there was still of issue of how.
“What would my Dad do?” he wondered.
He talked with several people and realized “Dana Mecum and my father would have gotten along very well. This is emotional for me and Mecum gets that, and they’re family oriented.”
And with the Bullitt going to its new caretaker, Sean Kiernan expects to have time to get his father’s Porsche back in running order. Steve McQueen may never have driven this Porsche, but Sean’s father did, and that’s what matters to him.