In 1968, the movie Bullitt was released, starring Steve McQueen, Robert Vaughn and Jacqueline Bisset, but another star of the movie was the 1968 Mustang, often called the Bullitt, driven hard by McQueen in his role as Lt. Frank Bullitt, a detective with the San Francisco police department.
The film’s 10 minute car-chase scene through the streets of San Francisco is regarded as one of the most influential in movie history and a must-see for any car enthusiast. For 2019, Ford is bringing the Bullitt Mustang back to life, and technology has made this Bullitt Mustang far superior to the original. Let’s take a look at how the car has changed.
The 1968 Bullitt was a Mustang Fastback equipped with a 390-CID (6.4-litre) V-8, four-barrel carburetor, four-speed manual transmission and dual exhaust. It was rated at 325 horsepower, but the movie car was upgraded with milled cylinder heads to increase the compression ratio and ignition systems. The transmission received a precision Hurst shifter with a round, white shift knob.
The 2019 Bullitt Mustang gets a smaller five-litre V-8 engine, computer-controlled fuel injection, a six-speed manual transmission and an active-valve-performance dual-exhaust system. It is rated at 480 horsepower, 15 more than a Mustang GT because of the installation of the high-performance intake manifold from the Mustang GT350 engine and the addition of a larger 87-millimetre throttle body (just like putting on a bigger carburetor) instead of the 82-millimetre unit.
The 2019 Bullitt’s performance is enhanced with different drive modes, including Normal, Snow/Wet, Sport, Track or Drag Strip. There is even launch control for achieving the fastest starts at the drag strip. The active-valve-performance exhaust is also computer-controlled, and the driver can select Quiet Start for early morning starts, Normal, Sport or Track modes. Just like the 1968 Bullitt, the exhaust note on the 2019 version has a low-pitched rumble during acceleration and a nice burble during deceleration. On the highway, the active-valve exhaust is very quiet, perfect for relaxing long drives.
Unlike the original, the 2019 Bullitt also gets rev matching, which automatically blips the throttle to match engine speed to road speed when down-shifting the transmission, and the exhaust note during this is pure bliss.
To maintain the character of the original, the 2019 Bullitt also gets a round, white shift knob and great shifting transmission.
For the movie shoot, modifications to the ’68 Mustang suspension included reinforced lower control arms, a thicker roll bar, reinforced shock towers and heavy-duty coil springs. In the movie, wheel hop was evident from the solid rear axle during hard acceleration.
The 2019 Bullitt also gets upgraded suspension with thicker roll bars and a MagneRide Damping shock system, which responds 1,000 times per second for each damper. The result is a smooth, balanced ride with very neutral handling. I expected the V-8 engine to make the front end feel heavy, just like it did in the 1968 Mustangs, but the 2019 Bullitt feels nimble and precise when turning into corners, even when the corners are very tight.
In 1968, Mustang had the latest in brakes with power-assisted front disc brakes and rear drum brakes. Although excellent for the times, they don’t hold a candle to the four wheel-vented disc brakes on the 2019, with six-piston Brembo front-brake calipers and 38-centimetre brake rotors and single-piston rear calipers and 33-centimetre rotors. Stopping power is simply superb.
There are many styling cues on both cars that continue the heritage, including the deleting of badging and spoilers and the inclusion of chrome trim around the grille and side windows. The ’68 car was Highland Green and the 2019 comes in Dark Highland Green. Although black is an optional colour available, green is the only way to go! Both cars have upgraded radios, with the ’68 getting two small aftermarket speakers screwed to the rear compartment. The 2019 gets a B&O Play Premium Audio System with 12 speakers including CD player, HD Radio and a subwoofer in the trunk.
The 2019 Bullitt Mustang is a far superior car to the 1968 model, and a much better car than a 2018 Mustang GT. Even so, it retains the image and sense of history of the original.
Technology has made the 2019 Bullitt Mustang far superior to its 1968 predecessor.