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Another Bullitt Review

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Here's another...sorry if some of you have seen this one already:

2001 Ford Mustang Bullitt
Son of a gun
by Paul A. Eisenstein

Now, let’s start with the obvious question: why would you name a car after a movie made more than 30 years ago? True, Bullitt featured one of the best chase scenes ever captured on film. And the movie’s hero, Steve McQueen, spent a sizable chunk of his time on screen driving around San Francisco in one of the hottest Mustangs ever made, 1968’s 390GT.

The answer, oddly enough, actually starts out with a couple members of Ford’s Mustang team who were sitting around doodling a design that looked a lot like the Torque Thrust steering wheel that was a must-have back in the ‘60s. “Suddenly,” says Ford’s Mickey D’Armi, “the immaculate conception of doing the car hit us.”

Well, inspiration comes from all sorts of sources, but with the idea in mind, Ford set out to win the rights to the Bullitt name, which was shared by Warner Brothers and the McQueen family. With a promise he’d get the first one off the line, son Chad McQueen helped push the project through.

Simply bolting a chrome Bullitt badge onto the back end of a Mustang GT obviously wouldn’t cut it. Something sharing the legendary name has to have the same sort of ballsiness of the old 390GT. That doesn’t mean the fastest times off the line. The car used in the movie wasn’t the most powerful Mustang of its day. But it was quick, maneuverable and menacing.

Streets of San Francisco

To see whether the new car measures up, Ford lined up a dark green Bullitt for us to drive down the same San Francisco streets McQueen pere had haunted nearly a third of a century ago.

Parked in front of one of our favorite ‘Frisco haunts, the Fog City Diner, we took a careful walkaround to see what changes have been made from the basic ’01 GT. Beyond the Bullitt badge, the C-, or rear pillar has been swept back a bit to look a bit more like the ’68 fastback. Also, in line with the movie car, the current GT’s spoiler has been removed. The stitching of the seats matches that of the old 390GT.

There are aluminum sill plates and an aluminum shift ball. A trick, chrome fuel door carries a neat surprise; open it up and you’ll discover an etched Mustang on the back of the door. Mustangs also have been laser etched onto the car’s massive, 13-inch front Brembo brakes.

Going with Brembos shows the Bullitt is more than just an appearance package. The pedals are brushed stainless steel, but they’ve also been repositioned to make it easier for drivers-in-the-know to do heel-and-toe shifts.

The goal was to make the limited edition model the most neutral in the Mustang corral. The suspension was lowered, and the Bullitt given stiffer springs, sway bars and upgraded shocks.

Ford engineers also spent a lot of time listening—that’s right, listening—to the McQueen movie classic, and the exhaust system has been tuned to recreate that deep-throated resonance of the 390GT. Indeed, Art Hyde, the Bullitt’s chief engineer, insists “the best way to drive this car is with the radio off and the windows down.

Catching air

And that’s precisely how we headed off, weaving our way through hilly San Francisco. We admit to driving a good deal slower through the city than Steve McQueen did—though his son, Chad, caught air a few times cresting the city’s steeper hills. As we finally worked our way out of the city and along the Pacific Coast, we were able to open up.

The Bullitt’s powertrain gets five more horsepower than the base Mustang GT, its 4.6-liter V-8 pumping out 265 hp and 305 lb-ft of torque. But the power comes on earlier and the torque curve is a bit flatter. It’s not going to best the Mustang Cobra, but it will leave a good tire slick when the light turns green.

Heading south into redwood country, we found the car delivered as promised. The lowered body and stiffer suspension were indeed more neutral than the conventional Mustang GT, and turning off the car’s Traction Control system allowed you to—predictably—steer through corners with the throttle and brakes. This is a car that’s responsive to your right foot.

At $27,000, the Bullitt carries a $3695 premium over the base Mustang GT. For most buyers, that premium is likely to be a bit stiff. But the Bullitt isn’t designed for everyone. In fact, Ford plans no advertising campaign at all, yet it’s already taken orders for 6000 of the 6500 it plans to build. After that, there’ll be no more Bullitts. So this car is likely to become an instant collectible.

Virtually all the individual parts, however, will be offered through the Ford catalog. “Twenty years from now,” says Hyde, “we figure there’ll be twice as many Bullitts as we ever sold.” So to protect those that bought one of the originals, Ford has placed a numbered ID plaque on the front left shock tower. There’s a second, matching ID tag hidden somewhere else in the car—where, no one at the company is saying.

While we won’t see another Bullitt, Ford seems so pleased with the advance reaction, the automaker is working on other limited-production models. What do they have in mind? It may be time to check your classic film library for a clue.

Link with photos:;AWEB&aid=137244&action=showarticle

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