'Bullitt' Mustang sells for $3.4 million

'Bullitt' Mustang sells for $3.4 million

Last owner of car driven by Steve McQueen in 1968 movie paid $6,000

The 1968 Ford Mustang GT 390 car used in the Steve McQueen film Bullitt is seen  during the Paris Motor Show in 2016. (AFP Photo)
The 1968 Ford Mustang GT 390 car used in the Steve McQueen film Bullitt is seen during the Paris Motor Show in 2016. (AFP Photo)

The 1968 Ford Mustang GT that Steve McQueen drove in the classic car chase from the movie 'Bullitt', one of the most famous cars in American cinema, sold for $3.4 million at auction in Florida on Friday.

It was the highest price ever paid for a Mustang at auction, according to David Morton, marketing manager for Mecum Auctions in Kissimmee, near Orlando. The buyer has not been publicly identified.

“The hammer dropped at $3.4 million, but with buyers’ fees, the total cost is $3.74 million,” he said, adding that it shattered the auction house’s previous record set last year of $2.2 million.

The unrestored muscle car, its “highland green” paint looking rusty and black upholstery splitting apart, starred in a 10-minute sequence in the 1968 film, getting airborne a few times as it sped over the hilly streets of San Francisco.

The car was auctioned without a reserve, or minimum sale price, a risky decision that could have forced the owners to sell low.

McQueen was filmed with the window down so viewers could see he was behind the wheel. Although credited as the driver, McQueen actually shared the wheel with Hollywood stunt driver Bud Ekins, according to the movie database IMDB.

Many movie buffs view the chase as ground-breaking for its duration and white-knuckle drama. The sequence forgoes a score in favor of roaring engines and screeching tyres. McQueen, playing the no-nonsense police Lieut Frank Bullitt, was chasing bad guys who drove a black 1968 Dodge Charger.

After filming, the Mustang was sold to a Warner Brothers employee, and later to a New Jersey police detective. He in turn sold it for $6,000 in 1974 to Robert Kiernan of Madison, New Jersey, who held onto the car until he died in 2014.

Kiernan rejected multiple offers for the car, including one from McQueen himself, according to the New York Times. He left it to his son, Sean.

“I would like to appeal to you to get back my ’68 Mustang,” McQueen wrote to Kiernan in 1977, according to the Times. “I would like very much to keep it in the family, in its original condition as it was used in the film, rather than have it restored; which is simply personal with me.”

McQueen died in 1980 at age 50. Robert Kiernan never responded to McQueen’s letter, which Sean Kiernan still has, the Times said.

Sean Kiernan told Mecum in a promotional video that his mother drove the car until the clutch failed in 1980. It went nearly 40 years without being driven until recently, with 65,000 miles on the odometer, Kiernan said.


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