History

Found: the real Bullitt Mustang that Steve McQueen tried (and failed) to buy

Steve McQueen made one last effort to buy his favourite Mustang in 1977. He sent a letter, typed on a single piece of heavy off-white vellum, to the car’s owner in New Jersey. The logo for his movie company, Solar Productions, was embossed in the upper left corner and opposite that resided the date, 14 December 1977. The letter is just four sentences.

Again, it begins, I would like to appeal to you to get back my ’68 Mustang. McQueen offered no specifics as to why this particular Ford was important to him, except to say that he wanted to keep it unrestored and that it was simply personal with me.

McQueen’s star may have dimmed by 1977, but he remained an icon, a rare actor loved by both genders. McQueen was also one of us, an aficionado and a racer, someone who understood the instinctual joy of automobiles and motorcycles and indulged in both. And with that ’68 Mustang, McQueen gave us a gift, one of the greatest car chases ever filmed, a duel with a Dodge Charger up, down, and around San Francisco. The Bullitt chase is coveted for the usual crashes and jumps, but it had something more: Unlike most cinematic chases that feature cars performing impossible feats, the one from Bullitt was every bit as exciting, but the driving was obviously real. Those who know cars knew. It’s 10 minutes of film nirvana. McQueen wanted the Bullitt Mustang back.

The rich and famous are often allergic to the word no, and so was McQueen. His impatience over being rebuked in his quest emerged in the last sentence: I would be happy to try to find you another Mustang similar to the one you have, he wrote, if there is not too much monies involved in it. Otherwise, we had better forget it.

The owner was just fine with forgetting it, and then the Bullitt Mustang made an exit, stage left, from recorded history — via Hagerty

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