January 10, 2020
Well, today is the day and we have been sat, glued to our monitor watching the live feed of the Mecum Collector Car Auction, happening in Kissimmee, Florida. Many stunning cars went over the block, but it was lot F150 we were waiting for, which was of course, the Bullitt 1968 Ford Mustang GT. As we covered in the article below that we posted in back in August, Sean Keirnan, the son of Robert Keirnan who bought the car from the production company way back when, has decided it’s time to part company with the iconic Mustang. It was offered with no reserve. Speaking at the auction, “We’re all here as a family. It’s been in my family for for 45 years. It’s been sold twice in it’s live, both times for $3,500, so we’re going to start it from there!”
Estimates in the press were anything from $5,000,000 through to an incredible $20,000,000. And going off the lots that went through before the Bullitt Mustang there was most definitely some money in the room. A lot of money was being spent, as evidenced by the C3 Corvette that went north of $350,000 a few lots prior, but it seemed there was a hell of a lot being saved for the Mustang.
Bidding opened at a modest $3,500 as a nod to the car’s past, but that was nothing. Within seconds the bidding came alive, pushing the car to $2,000,000 in mere moments. The cowboy hat wearing auctioneer, talking a million miles an hour even struggled to keep up. Bidders both in person and on the phone fought for a good five minutes, with the bidding slowing down at around $2,900,000 but in the end the hammer fell at an incredible $3,400,000 smashing the record set by a Ford, which was a 1967 Shelby GT500 that sold for $2.2 million at Mecum’s Kissimmee event last year. With Mecum’s 10% premium on top, Bullitt will come in at a cool $3,740,000.
While an impressive number for what is essentially a battered old Mustang that was in a film once, it’s nowhere near the most expensive American car ever sold. That plaudit goes to the 1935 Duesenberg SSJ Roadster sold at Pebble Beach in 2018 for $22,000,000. However, it has to rank highly in terms of being one of the most watched, and most anticipated classic car auctions to ever take place.
All that remains now is to see what becomes of the car. Hopefully it will continue to be out and in the limelight, rather than being squirrelled away in a private collection, never to be seen again. A car like this, with such a fascinating history, should be out there, telling its story. And let’s just hope the new buyer leaves it ‘as is’, because it would be a crime to rid this automotive icon of what has to be some of the hardest-earned patina on any classic car, ever.
August 15 – 2019
Last year the motoring world was shocked, in the nicest possible way, to find out that one of the Mustangs driven by Steve McQueen in 1968’s Bullitt still existed. Prior to its resurfacing, it was widely believed that the car had perished years ago, probably scrapped or left to rot away somewhere. This wasn’t the case though. After production, Universal sold the Mustang through the small ads in the paper – remember, this was a pre-eBay time – at which point Robert Keirnan bought it.
The car was one of two used in the production, and of those two, the car Keirnan bought was the most significant. This was the ‘hero’ car, the one we saw McQueen driving, the one in all the key shots. The other car, used for the really heavy stunts, was sold for scrap after the movie wrapped (though again, this one did resurface in 2017).
The hero car was thought to be lost to history, left to live on only through our screens. However, that wasn’t the case. As it turned out, Keirnan had bought the car to be family transport and when the family had outgrown it, the car was hidden away and forgotten about. Until, that is, Keirnan’s son, Sean, inherited the car in 2014 after the sad passing of his father.
It took a few years of arranging, but in 2018 the car resurfaced, making its debut at the 2018 North American International Auto Show in Detroit. The motoring world, and the world of pop-culture were left to pick their jaws up off the floor. This car, arguably one of the most significant vehicles in cinema history, had returned. And brilliantly, Sean had resisted the urge to restore the car, instead favouring the ‘oily rag’ treatment. The car was recommissioned, but none of that hard-earned patina, none of the brackets used to mount cameras, none of the dings, dents or scuffs, none of the car’s scars have been removed. This car is a celebration of what it has lived through.
And next year, this car, the very car that Steve McQueen himself wrote a pleading letter about, in which he pleaded with Keirnan to sell it, could be yours. Yes, the Bullitt Mustang is going to auction. It’s already being speculated that when it does, this will be the most expensive Ford Mustang in the history of the model.
Speaking about his decision to sell via a Facebook post, Sean Keirnan said: “Through a lot of conversation and prayer my family and I have decided to sell our car, the 1968 Mustang GT fastback known as Bullitt. I can promise that we have thought this through together and decided that this is the best decision for the family. Bullitt has been part of my family for 45 years and we have celebrated her in the grandest way possible, and now it will have a new role and new meaning to the future owner. Mecum Auctions will handle the sale of the car and it will headline the Kissimmee, Florida auction in January 2020.”
He went on to add: “I have accomplished what I set out to do with the car; Tell my Dad’s story in the best way possible and share the car with the world. I had no idea what to expect when we unveiled the car in January 2018 in Detroit, but since then everyone has been absolutely excited and respectful to see the car and hear the story. I have met many awesome people along the way and have heard many amazing stories.”