The wait is over. The drama has reached its denouement. After being parked inside a glass display case in The Glass House where featured vehicles are securely showcased, the Highland Green 1968 Ford Mustang 390, the workhorse chase car from the Steve McQueen movie Bullitt, sold at the Mecum auction in Kissimmee, Florida, for a hammer price of $3.4 million.
Add in the 10-percent buyer’s premium and the total transaction was $3.74 million, which insurance and value-tracking company Hagerty says not only is the most expensive Mustang transaction as well as the highest auction price for an American muscle car.
Mecum staff opened the glass case at about 1:45 p.m. (Eastern time) on Friday and hustled the car down the ramps, out into the alley and into the main auction building, where it became Lot F150 on the auction calendar, the last lot of the day.
When the time came, Mecum doused the house lights for a few minutes, turned on the hue “BULLITT” signs around the room, and announced the car to enormous cheers from the crowd.
At exactly 2:30 p.m., Sean Kiernan, whose family had the car in Madison, New Jersey, for 45 years, announced that the opening bid would be $3,500, which is the price his father had paid for what was then a used, albeit famous, piece of movie history.
For several years, the car became a daily driver for Sean Kirnan’s school-teaching mother, but then was simply stored away and kept as a family secret until 2018, when it emerged and was quickly included on the National Historic Vehicle Register.
The packed house was on its feet and cheered. That initial bid quickly was multiplied many times over. And then the serious money showed up and it was apparent that this was going to be a contest of wills and bank accounts.
The hammer finally came down at 2:41 p.m. and the car was pushed offstage and returned to its glass case for the rest of the weekend, to await the finalization of the transaction and the handover to the new owner, who was not identified.
After the sale, when asked if he was nervous or excited, Sean Kiernan said, “I’ve been at peace with the sale for about eight months.”
He also told us that he would be using some of the money from the sale to find, restore and hotrod another ’68 Mustang 390.
It was a great show from start to finish for Mecum during the week-long run. Well, except for the crowd control around the car that in large part accounts for some of our abysmal photographs.
But our frustration matters little. Here’s the perspective of McKeel Hagerty:
“Movie and TV cars have always been worth exactly what someone is willing to pay for them,” he noted in a statement. “But the Bullitt Mustang has it all – a great chase scene, the McQueen connection and a fantastic backstory. The fact that it had disappeared for decades, only to re-emerge as an unrestored, movie-car time capsule is something we’ll likely never see again in our lifetimes.”