Steve McQueen delivers a classic 1960s-era anti-hero performance in the movie Bullitt, but it’s the green Mustang GT that gets all the attention. Two cars were in the movie — a stunt car and a car for closeups. The “Hero Car” used for closeups has a documented history, but it was long believed that the stunt car was scrapped. That was until last week, when Vintage Mustang Forum member Fede Garza posted photos of the stunt car.
Photos on an internet forum are obviously suspect, though, as we’ve learned from all those photos circulating about what a Ford Bronco is going to look like when it shows up in 2020. The proof is in the pudding, and the pudding, in this case, is an authentication.
The Mustangs — and two black Chargers — were built for the movie by legendary California racer Max Balchowsky in his famed Hollywood Garage. The Mustangs started as ordinary GTs, but Balchowsky gave them their signature look by completely debadging the cars: the “Mustang” and “GT” emblems, fog lamps and grille emblems all ended up in the trash, while the cars got reinforced shock towers, beefier springs, Koni shocks, and a fatter anti-roll bar.
The stunt car got a roll bar, but even that was unique. It had camera mounts to put viewers inside the car during the chase sequences, which gave the movie chase such an authentic feel.
After filming, the better of the two cars was sold to a Warner Brothers employee, who then sold the car in 1970, when its value couldn’t have been less. The stunt car, though, carrying the VIN 8R02S125558, was trashed beyond what anybody in 1968 would’ve figured repairable. Nobody knew how iconic that film would become, and it was sold off to a local junkyard for scrap.
Forty-nine years later, on February 28, Vintage Mustang Forum member Fede Garza posted a picture of himself inside a green Mustang, with the caption “What was thought to be lost is now found…”
Garza doesn’t own the car. He simply heard about it through a friend, Ralph Garcia, Jr., who has an auto body shop in Baja California Sur in Mexico.
The thread in the Vintage Mustang Forum shows pictures of the car in the very early stages of restoration. The pictures definitely give the indication that it could be an authentic Bullitt Mustang: The shock towers have been reinforced, and since the stunt car had a generator in the trunk to power cameras and lights, a hole between the trunk and the rear seat area is present. The VIN tag and the data plate on the door both match the VIN of the real car.
However, there isn’t any of this that can’t be faked, which was brought up in the forum thread.
On March 3, the car went to Mexicali Ford, where it was inspected by Kevin Marti. Marti runs Marti Auto Works, and if he’s famous for anything, it’s the Marti Report, an exhaustive document on a vintage Ford that proves beyond question that it’s authentic. Marti is the only licensee to Ford Motor Company’s entire production database for 1967 to 2012 Ford products.
Hemmings Motor News‘s Kurt Ernst contacted Marti to hear the story: “Kevin reserves the details of his findings for customers, but he did say that the pieces of the car shown to him included appropriate date code stampings, serial number stampings, original paint and other identifying marks that verified the Mustang’s identity. ‘The fender apron and door data plate stampings were authentic,’ he told us, ‘These were, of course a major focal point in the investigation.'”
Garcia and his partner Hugo Sanchez found the car in Baja California Sur, rescued it and hauled it to their shop. At this point, the car has received a new roof and floor pans, and the bare body has been sprayed Highland Green to make it look more Bullitt-like. According to Hemmings: “Since Kevin’s authentication, the car has been shipped to California, where Garcia plans to restore it with guidance from Ford Motor Company. Offers to buy the car have already begun to roll in, but for now anyway, it isn’t for sale.”
The value of such a car is hard to estimate, but a few cars stand out that set the mark:
In January of 2006, RM Auctions sold James Bond’s Aston-Martin DB5 at its Arizona sale for $2.1 million. That car was in more complete condition than this Bullitt Mustang is, but it wasn’t in great shape. It had been “restored” several times, and under close inspection revealed that it was in pretty rough shape.
At the Scottsdale Barrett-Jackson Auction in 2013, customizer George Barris consigned the Batmobile that had been in his collection since 1965. It fetched a staggering $4.6 million when the final gavel fell.
At the 2008 Barrett-Jackson sale, Barris also sold the Monkeemobile that was in his collection, which had appeared in the 1960s TV show, The Monkees. That car — based on a 1966 Pontiac GTO — only brought $396,000.