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July 30, 2008 > Auto Review: Ford Mustang Bullitt

Auto Review: Ford Mustang Bullitt

Does the name Frank Bullitt ring a bell? How about Steve McQueen? Frank Bullitt was the detective that McQueen played in the 1968 movie "Bullitt." And what do you remember about that movie? How about the 10-minute car chase scene up and down the hills of San Francisco?

For the 2008 model year, Ford created a special Mustang model that revives the aura of the 1968 Mustang GT 390 that chased the villain's Dodge Charger all over the city. Only 7,000 Mustang Bullitts will be built.

Ford started with a regular Mustang GT that has a 4.6-liter, 3-valve per cylinder V-8 and a 5-speed manual transmission. It puts out 315 ponies and 325 foot pounds of torque. Then Ford adds a 3.73:1 differential that helps reduce the 0 to 60 times to 5.2 seconds. Special engine calibrations boot the top end to 151 mph.

Next comes the paint. McQueen's Mustang was Highland Green, so Ford recreated the color for this 2008 edition. (You can also get the Bullitt in black, but who would do that?) The original car in the film had virtually no exterior chrome trim, and the 2008 is the same. The special 18-inch wheels are the original charcoal color and complete the vintage look. Goodrich g-Force T/A tires are a good choice to transmit all that torque and power to the ground. The interior is clean, simple, and looks great.

One of the best parts of the chase scene is the sound. The roar of the engine, squealing tires and frantic downshifting helped earn the film an Academy Award nomination for sound. Ford's engineers spent many hours studying the film's soundtrack so they could design an exhaust system for the new car that sounded the same. And it sounds great! The sound of it driving up Main Street at 5500 rpm in first gear is something any man would love.

Ford made a number of changes to improve the handling. New front shocks and struts lead the charge. A strong brace connecting the tops of the front shocks improves lateral stiffness and improves the cornering. Carbon metallic brake pads are added at the front to improve the performance of the ABS brake system.

And how does all this work? It seems like someone turned the clock back 40 years, only better. The Mustang Bullitt is definitely fun to drive. It looks great, handles well, and sounds like a V-8 should. And it has all the modern safety equipment and reliability we expect in today's cars.

The Bullitt can run on premium or regular unleaded gas. Ford recommends premium for better performance. The engine management system can sense if you filled up with regular fuel and makes the necessary adjustments. Its EPA numbers are 15 city and 23 for the highway test. But if you drive it like you stole it, those numbers plummet.

Our test car's total sticker price was $34,705. That included a $1,995 navigation system and a few other items. It also included a $525 charge for the high intensity discharge headlights. $500 for good headlights seems a little high to me.

Bullitt gets Ford's 3-year/36,000 mile bumper-to-bumper warranty. The power train warranty is five years or 60,000 miles. Ford's roadside assistance program also lasts five years or 60,000 miles, whichever comes first.

Here's an interesting fact about the film's chase scene - the evil Dodge Charger lost eight hubcaps during the frenzy.

By Dick Ryan
Freelance Automotive Journalist
Member of the Western Automotive Journalists

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