To be sure, the 2019 Ford Mustang Bullitt exists because of a 50-year-old movie and the car it made famous. Or, perhaps more accurately today, the car that keeps it famous. Much like “Smokey and the Bandit” or “The Dukes of Hazard,” the enduring allure of an automotive star has helped keep alive the memory of a film (or TV show) that likely would’ve faded from the collective consciousness.
Yet, even though I’m definitely not immune to owning a car specifically because it was featured in a film, my deep desire for the Mustang Bullitt has absolutely nothing to do with its role in the film “Bullitt” or its connection to Steve McQueen. I have never actually seen the movie, nor any movie starring the man. (To tar and feather me, please contact my personal assistant).
It has the right engine: a 5.0-liter Coyote V8 with the GT350’s intake manifold and ECU borrowed to produce an extra 20 horsepower for a grand total of 480. The EcoBoost four-cylinder was not invited. It has the right number of pedals: three, with the accompanying box of six tightly packed gears pleasingly selected by a shifter topped by a special-to-the-Bullitt white cueball. It has the right exhaust: the Mustang’s otherwise optional Active Valve Performance Exhaust system that’s incredibly characterful, incredibly loud and incredibly awesome. The neighbors may disagree.
It has the right collection of other mechanical upgrades: The GT Performance package is standard, including unique chassis tuning, extra structural reinforcements, a Torsen diff and six-piston Brembo brakes with red calipers for the Bullitt. This particular one had the right suspension: the $1,695 MagneRide option that so impressed during my time in the Mustang EcoBoost and that should really be made standard in the Bullitt.
Visually, the perfection continues. It has the right amount of stripes and rear wings: zero. It has the right wheels: 19 inches with an outer alloy ring encasing five black torque-thrust-style spokes. It has the right paint color: Dark Highland Green, which you can only get on the Bullitt and is the only color you should get on the Bullitt. Black is available, but then green is still the correct answer. It’s also carried inside to the similarly hued accent stitching on the dash, doors and seats. The latter can be optional Recaro bucket seats, which definitely provide more lateral support, but if you’re tall like me (6-foot-3), their six-way manual adjustment may not provide as much under-leg support as the standard eight-way power seats.
Now, do I miss the Mustang emblem in the grille? A bit. Do I need the Bullitt badging on the tail, steering wheel and dash? Probably not. Would Steve McQueen find the horse lasers offensive? Certainly. Nothing is truly perfect.
Yet, the Bullitt is still as close as you can get to perfection in the realm of Mustangs. Hell, the realm of cars, as far as I’m concerned. It is bad-ass and eye-catching, yet tasteful and unpretentious. It is thrilling and rewarding when driven with exuberance, yet shockingly comfortable (thanks MagneRide) and easy to operate (thanks easy clutch and rev-match downshifting) when driven with mundanity. Like every Mustang, it’s a long-hood, short-deck, two-door coupe of retro-inspired, all-American, timeless brilliance.
And so it’s my Halloween costume this year. Sadly, however, much as I ceased to be a U.S.S. Defiant crew member on Nov. 1 of 2017, my days as McQueen will come to an end tomorrow when a man comes to swap my beloved Bullitt with what I’m sure is a perfectly pleasant Subaru Forester. It won’t be easy. If only Halloween was every day.