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HomeCar CultureWhat I Learned from Buying a Modern Collector Car

What I Learned from Buying a Modern Collector Car

Part 1: The Pre-Purchase Thought Process

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Some people grow up in Ford families. Their parents are loyal to the blue oval and when they get old enough, they end up driving an Explorer or an F-150 as their first vehicle. I was raised in what you can call a Ford-adjacent household. My parents primarily drove Asian imports when I was a kid, but my dad did have non-running 1964.5 and 1965 Mustang convertibles that were in desperate need of restoration. Their potential always made me daydream about what it would be like to drive one of them with the top down. That desire for a Mustang only grew in high school thanks to friends that had their own. After college, I had a girlfriend who let me drive her black New Edge GT, which gave me a taste of what I had been curious to try. Several years later, I was fortunate enough to test about 10 various S550 models, including the Shelby GT500, as a freelance journalist. As if it wasn’t clear before, those experiences made it undeniable: I had to get a Mustang.

In September 2022, I finally did. I signed on the dotted line for a 2008 Mustang Bullitt, one of only 5,808 produced for the model year (Ford made an additional 816 for 2009, according to Steeda). Not only did I finally get what I thought was my dream car, but I also got a year-long learning experience, which I’m going to break down into a few stories. In this first part, I’ll share what I should’ve done differently in my pre-purchase process.

Be Calm

I consider myself level-headed about my finances. I always wait for sales and never feel that my money is burning a hole in my pocket. Even when I was coming up with my short-list of potential new cars, I thought I was being realistic. Sure, they weren’t all that practical, but they also weren’t ridiculously expensive. I considered the 2003-2004 Mercury Marauder for its sleek looks and passenger space, but the ones with low prices had too many miles and the less road-beaten ones were more than I cared to spend. Then there was the 2003-2004 Mustang SVT Cobra. Perhaps if the right one would’ve popped up near me, I would’ve enjoyed the rush of 390 supercharged horsepower. The 2003-2004 Mustang Mach 1 was also on the list and offered 305 horsepower and the novelty of a shaker hood scoop. Any serious thought of that immediately vanished when I saw a dealer near me had an exclusively Arizona-owned Dark Highland Green 2008 Bullitt with only 25,000 miles on it. So did my restraint. (More on that later.)  

Think About My Lifestyle

The year before I bought the Bullitt was the first one in nearly a decade I’d had a commute. The previous eight I had worked from home. When I got the Bullitt, I was working in an office approximately an hour away from my house three days a week. My initial excitement over the purchase numbed me to the grind of driving a manual car with a heavy clutch in Phoenix rush-hour traffic. That caught up with me once I had to commute five days a week – some of which hit 115 degrees – in a car with a Dark Charcoal leather interior.

In the lead-up to getting the Bullitt, I envisioned going on rallies with other Mustang owners and taking my fiancé (now wife) down amazing driving roads to romantic destinations. We’ve had our share of those, but we spend most of our weekends in the suburbs or in Scottsdale. Apparently, horses aren’t the only creatures who wear blinders.

Consider Others

I knew when I was getting closer to the final purchase that I was being indulgent, but I felt I had earned the privilege. I had always wanted a Mustang and I was finally going to stop dreaming about it and make it happen.

It wasn’t until later that I realized how selfish I was in making the Bullitt my only car. To mark the 40th anniversary of the movie “Bullitt,” Ford equipped its commemorative model with a variety of cosmetic and performance upgrades. It offered the GT-based model in only two colors: Dark Highland Green and Black. No matter which one you picked, the Bullitt had a low-key appearance consisting of a pony-less grille, no Ford emblems, and movie car-inspired 18-inch “Euroflange” wheels and exhaust tweaks. According to Ford Performance, in addition to stiffer shocks, springs, and a strut tower brace, Ford’s in-house gearheads installed a Ford Racing Power Upgrade Package that bumped the output of the 4.6-liter V8 up to 315 horsepower and 325 lb-ft of torque.

Ford paired the enhanced engine with a TREMEC five-speed manual gearbox exclusively. The love of my life didn’t know how to drive stick, so if for some reason her car was out of commission, I couldn’t lend her mine. I was still thinking like a single guy, not someone who was going to get married in two months.

Then there were my soon-to-be in-laws. We spent a lot of time with them trying different restaurants, shopping, and going on day trips. They both had cars that offered space for everyone. While technically a four-seater, the Bullitt effectively had no back seats. Even if my fiancé and her mother decided to contort themselves into the back row and suffer the pain of nearly zero legroom, my future father-in-law wouldn’t be comfortable in the shotgun seat for long because he was 6’5”. Every time we all went somewhere together, it wasn’t in my car. My indulgence had become an inconvenience to the people I loved.

That was just the beginning of my lesson. I learned even more when I purchased my first modern collector car, which I’ll cover in the next part, so stay tuned!

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Derek Shiekhi
Derek Shiekhi
Derek Shiekhi is the Editor and Lead Writer at ClassicCars.com’s sister site AutoHunter.com. He was previously a freelance automotive writer who won numerous awards from the Texas Auto Writers Association for his coverage of events and vehicle reviews. He has been lucky enough to drive Lamborghinis on a track, go off-roading over sand dunes in a Land Rover Discovery, haul a BMW M Roadster with a Ford F-450 Limited, and perform several 55-mph jumps in the Ram 1500 TRX. These days, he’s learning a lot of interesting facts about the vintage and collector vehicles auctioned on Auto Hunter.

16 COMMENTS

  1. If you had picked a 1966-7 Charger there would have been room for all. It takes a certain kind of person to appreciate them. With 4 people and fat tires, my cousin’s 390 GT Mustang stick car did not ride nearly as nice.
    I realize this was 57 years ago. Still have the Charger.
    Looking forward to the next instalment .

  2. Enjoyed reading this first installment of your Collector Car experience and am looking forward to more in the future.

  3. My first car as a new husband, was a 1968 Mustang – gold with black trim automatic off the Dealer’s Showroom. it was the WORST car I have ever owned . Ever ! The Ford Smog system was awful, resulting in stalls at Red lights, and very bad Electrics not reliable, causing running out of gas quite often. Never again. Switched to Porsche , where I have been happy ever since.

  4. Congratulations! ?? As a fellow owner of an early S197 GT (I have had a ’06 GT in Vista Blue since new) and modded it to my dream Mustang over the years, these are FUN cars! And don’t let anyone badmouth the 4.6L 3v. These motors, while routinely ragged on as they came after the Mach 1 4.6L 32v Modular & before the Gen 1 Coyote 5.0, these make great power for NOT a lot of dollars. All I added to my car were longtube headers, a (at the time) hi-flow H-Pipe with Borla mufflers, a Airaid CAI and a dyno tube, and I’m at 350/375 flywheel. Now an H-Pipe, NO cats (my car is deemed classic in Pennsylvania, as it’s over 15 years old, so exempt from emissions regs forever).

    But you can do so much to these and all the parts are reasonable. And it’s funny as I was selling Fords when I bought my car (I sold from 97-2020, but left due to severe Crohn’s disease). When your Bullitt came out, I was so ticked as that was what I wanted (being a HUGE Steve McQueen fan) but having modded my car so much (Painted Shelby stripes, Shelby 10-spoke retro wheels, etc) I couldn’t trade it in. But I did the next best thing. Grabbed the shifter and the turned aluminum dash panels and put them in my car.

    You picked the perfect example and you should have a lot of fun with it. Cars & Coffee events are great. Relaxed, come and go as you please and everyone has a story with their car. Enjoy it. ??

    • Thank you for reading my piece, Jeff. You certainly picked some great pieces from the Bullitt for your Mustang.

  5. Teach your wife to drive a stick. It’s not hard.

    I have a 65 Convertible. And an 82 Fiat Spider Turbo. And a 71 Lotus Europa. And a Moto Guzzi V7. You could have gotten a lot less practical than your Bullitt.

    Cars can be a lot of fun. Enjoy yours

  6. I have the same model year Bullitt as you but I have twice as many miles, as I bought mine brand new in September, 2008. I sold a convertible Corvette so that I would have room in my garage for the Bullitt. The Corvette was not practical for my wife and toddler daughter to ride in, and I previously owned a Fox Body Mustang 5.0 LX before the Corvette. I have always had a primary/commuter car and the Mustangs/Corvette were weekend or pleasure cars. My suggestion to you is to find a $8-15,000 commuter car (with 4 doors) that you can drive on a daily basis and save the Bullitt for the weekend or special trips. You will like it a lot more and not be as stressed out with your family. I look forward to reading the rest of your series. Also, you might want to look at joining the International Mustang Bullitt Owners Club (IMBOC) webpage. There, you’ll find all kinds of tips and tricks from other owners of these cars. Membership is free and you can learn a lot about the history of not just the 40th anniversary cars, but also the 2001 and the 50th anniversary cars as well.

  7. In June 2023, I sold the last of my four motorcycles- everything from a Ninja 250 to a HD Road Glide Ultra. I stopped riding because my wife was injured in a car accident back in 2019, and could no longer ride with me. I purchased a 2008 Mustang GT ragtop in August 2023. It is black with tan learher. I absolutely love it. I love tinkering with it. I love adding mods to it. I have blacked it out, entirely. Even have black Bullitt-style rims. The S197s are more than beautiful- they are so much fun to drive!

  8. I truly enjoyed reading this installment of articles. You have a great insight and story telling love of cars. Great job ?

  9. Don’t worry about everyone else. You wanted the car…you bought the car…end of story. I am sure your father in law has a car and you said your wife has a car, so enjoy yourself.

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