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.”