Author's Note: The first time I ever saw the movie Bullitt, I was up late one night watching TV with my dad. We surfed the channels (all five of them back then) and he stopped on some movie, which showed a guy loading a shotgun inside of a car. Next thing I knew, the driver of the car, a black Dodge Charger, stood on the gas and yanked the wheel to the left. The chase was on and I was hooked.
Some of you may have actually seen Bullitt in the movie theaters when it was released, while others have caught it at some point on television. If you're any sort of gearhead, and supposing that you have seen the movie, then it is most obvious that such an automotive marvel would remain forever etched on the gray matter within your grease-stained skull. How cool could it be then, that one of the biggest automakers in the world found a way to push a retro version of the immortal '68 Mustang into current production?
Derived from a cult movie classic, the 2001 Bullitt Mustang is becoming a legend in its own right. Checking the Bullitt option on the order form lightened the wallet by an additional $3,695 over the GT price, but netted you more performance and power, not to mention the unique styling of this special edition pony.
The bad thing about special editions, however, is that there are only a limited number of them. After contacting Scott Hoag, Mustang Nameplate Manager for Team Mustang, we found there to be a total of 5582 Bullitt Mustangs built, with 3041 colored Dark Highland Green, 723 wearing True Blue and 1818 dressed in Black.
Since we had our Ford connection revealing Bullitt facts, we asked Scott to clear up some rumors/discrepancies that we came across in our research.
Evidently, the first five Bullitts that were produced and sold were pre-production units numbered 00001-00005. Ford then built four more for the McQueen family, which were labeled McQueen 01, McQueen 02, McQueen 03 and McQueen 04. After that, the regular production Bullitts were fired off the assembly line ending with No. 5601. During assembly, some labels were lost or damaged, which is why there is a difference in the total number of Bullitts built, and the way the cars were actually numbered.
For various reasons, people occasionally part with these collectibles, and therefore they are still available for purchase. Whether you are looking to buy one or just want some information on them, there's really only one place to go. IMBOC.com (International Mustang Bullitt Owners Club) is dedicated solely to Ford's McQueen-esque Mustang, and offers quite a bit of information.
IMBOC.com features a large forum for conversing with fellow "Bullittheads," and offers links to other Bullitt information. Another interesting site to see is http://people.freenet.de/pony/bullit.htm This is a website dedicated to the movie Bullitt, and the 1968 Mustang that starred along with Steve McQueen. Dave Kunz, who happens to own the Mustang pictured in the Ford press photo, helps run the site. In addition to viewing these Bullitt Mustang Internet sites, you can also refer back to the April '01 and November '01 issues of MM&FF for our first look and dragstrip test.
So now that we've told you a little bit about these cars, we should tell you that many of their owners fall into the realm of Mustang maniacs. Like the rest of us, they too are enthusiasts who are looking to go faster. With a collectible, one has to go about it in a slightly different manner in order to retain the vehicle's value. But that doesn't mean they can't be fast.
Putting together a shootout on short notice often puts limits on whom you invite, as we can't expect possible participants to drop everything and traverse hundreds of miles just to get their picture in the magazine. We had put out the call for Bullitt owners through the Horse's Mouth column but, sadly, we only had two submissions. One of them traded in his Bullitt for an '03 Cobra. Can't say we blame him for that one. The other guy was tearing into his Bullitt for some big horsepower gains, and would not have it done in time. However, after posting the event on the IMBOC site, we got a pretty good response.
Most surprising was the entry of Bob Watson. Bob emailed us and said he would love to come and play, and driving the 18-plus hours from Florida was just a passing thought for him. Jim McDonnell of Ontario contemplated the eight-hour journey from the Great White North, but judging from his mood when he left Englishtown, it was well worth it. Abel Gonzales and Brian Walshe came over from New York with their Mustangs. Abel's has a few slight modifications, while Brian's low-mileage missile was run just as Ford had delivered it.
There were others who tried to get in, but we were limited by Father Time. Should we do this again next year, we'll know to get the word out much sooner, and we'll know where all of the "Bullittheads" are hiding. For now, read on to see who brought the fastest pony projectile, and find out what these gunsmiths did to make them lethal.
Garnering the long-haul award was Bob Watson of Jacksonville, Fla.. Bob caught word of our shootout on the IMBOC website and called us up to find out when and where. From there, he enlisted the help of Tony Gonyon to haul his horse to New Jersey for our event.
Tony operates HP Performance in Middleburg, Fla.., and belongs to the Modern Mustang Club along with Bob. In addition to working on Bob's Bullitt, Tony has been giving him driving tips, since Bob was used to shifting the slushbox of his wife Wendy's Impala SS.
Watson went searching for a car of his own, and was attracted to the retro styling cues of the Bullitt Mustang. After catching the horsepower fever from fellow Mustang club members, Bob bolted on a Vortech V-2 SQ supercharger and more recently, added aftermarket axles and ET Street tires, which has resulted in better traction and lower elapsed times.
The night before our event, Bob and Tony attended Raceway Park's Wednesday night test and tune, and Tony piloted the black Bullitt to an all-time best ET of 11.93 at 117.65 mph. Bob had yet to hit the 11-second zone, but after Tony backed up his previous 11.93 with an 11.90 during our event, Bob was ever so eager to grab that honor for himself.
By the end of the day, Bob would indeed run his first sub-12-second run with an 11.95 at 119. An exuberant Bob Watson (the tall one in the photo with Tony Gonyon) went back to Florida, taking top honors in our Bullitt Shootout, as well as the top spot on the Fastest Bullitt List on the IMBOC website. Bob loved the exclusivity and understated styling of the Bullitt Mustangs from the start, and now a stealthy 400 rear-wheel horsepower certainly makes things even more exciting.
The boisterous Jim McDonnel drove some eight hours from his home in Ontario, Canada, to Englishtown, New Jersey, and let it all hang out on the 1320.
The black Bullitt had been modified with a Dense Charger cold air kit, Hooker long-tube headers, and a 4.10 ring and pinion set. Not one to be afraid of sidestepping the clutch and jumping on the brake, Jim gave his Nitto drag radials a good hazing every time he ran, but the heat gave the tires plenty of traction and he was able to take his previous best ET of 13.4 seconds and shave three tenths off of it, running a 13.19 at 104.3 mph.
After catching the concept car at the North American International Automobile Show in Detroit, McDonnell purchased one of the few hundred Mustangs that made it to the Canadian market. Before long, he had installed the gears and cold air kit, and then the headers. A custom chip from Paul's High Performance in Jackson, Mich., got the Nitto drag radials turning a little faster.
Since purchasing the car in July of 2001, Jim has been hitting Fun Ford Weekend True Street events and, by the time you have read this, was scheduled to have participated in the first Bullitt Nationals held at the Fun Ford Weekend finals in Ennis, Texas. He also races at Milan Dragway in Mich. whenever he feels the need to squeeze off a few rounds.
Abel Gonzales, a job engineer from the Floral Park section of Queens, New York, bought his Dark Highland Green Bullitt in August '01, and has since modified it with such items as a Dense Charger cold air kit, a Steeda Tri-Ax shifter and JBA shorty headers.
Abel had only raced the Bullitt once before, and had only run on a track once before that in a Thunderbird. Our shootout gave him some more seat and stickshift time, and for a manually shifted car, the Mustang was quite consistent. At our shootout, Abel was able (no pun intended) to equal his best ET of 13.90, but an increase from 98 to 101 mph shows that he has a little more powder in the keg.
Knowing that these cars are natural collectibles, Abel intends to add only bolt-on modifications like a bigger mass air meter, fuel injectors and throttle body, not to mention a set of gears and drag radials to put it all to the ground.
While some of our participants liked the Bullitt Mustang for its looks, others were attracted to it because of its heritage to the movie that starred Steve McQueen and the 1968 Mustang that he drove in it. Such is the case with Scarsdale, N.Y.'s Brian Walshe.
Brian, a television cameraman by trade, has been a Bullitt fan since the heyday of the movie. When he heard that Ford was going to be selling a Bullitt Mustang, he went right down to his local dealer and put in his order without even seeing one. Four months later, Brian brought No. 1620 home, and has logged a mere 4,400 miles over the last year.
On the track the Bullitt, as delivered from Ford, traversed the quarter-mile in 14.08 seconds at over 98 MPH. Brian had never taken the Stang to the track before so it was a get-acquainted adventure.