Steve McQueen’s infamous Bullitt Mustang sells for record price
This is a tough one, people. The original Bullitt—the one driven by the “King of Cool,” Steve McQueen, in the 1968 movie Bullitt—has a new owner. Up until now, the Kiernan family has owned it since 1974. After Robert Kiernan plunked down $3,500 for the 1968 “Bullet” Mustang, as it was written in the ad, McQueen tried to purchase Bullitt Mustang car on several occasions, but instead, Kiernan’s wife used it as her daily driver to and from the school she taught at until 1980 when the clutch finally gave up.
Yes, the original Bullitt, the actual real Bullitt was used as a daily driver for 6 years. Can you imagine seeing the car every day and not realizing it was the car?! It looked just like a regular Highland Green 1968 fastback, but we’re sure someone who saw it back at that time had to wonder if that was the car from the movie.
Nonetheless, when the clutch gave out with 65,000 miles on the car, it was relegated to a spot in the family garage. The car would get moved when the Kiernan address would change, as well, but the car’s odometer didn’t until 2001 when Ford reintroduced the Bullitt. Upon the reintroduction of its namesake, Robert and his son, Sean, had renewed interest in the car, so the two set out to get the car on the road. The elder Kiernan’s health took a turn for the worse with a Parkinson’s disease diagnosis, however, so getting him well became the priority. Again in 2008 when Ford introduced another Bullitt, the Kiernan’s looked to finish what they had started in 2001, but Robert’s health again intervened, which meant Sean had to take on a bigger task in the family’s day-to-day operations.
Unfortunately, Robert Kiernan passed away in 2014, which left Sean as the car’s caretaker. Even at that time, though, outside of the Kiernan family, you could count the number of people who knew about the car on one hand, maybe two, at the most. That would change at the 2018 Detroit Auto Show, when the original Bullitt took center stage next to the 2019 Mustang Bullitt. Many would say the original Bullitt stole the show, and you would get no arguments from us on that fact.
With the car’s reintroduction, and the excitement surrounding everything Bullitt-related, Sean took the car on almost a worldwide tour so enthusiasts from many corners of the world could be up close and personal with a car many thought was lost. There’s not a Mustang fan alive who hasn’t seen the chase scene where Lt. Frank Bullitt is chasing down the bad guys who were driving a 1968 Charger.
However, Sean Kiernan and his family has decided to let someone else carry on the car’s legacy, with Mecum Auctions handling the car’s sale. On Friday, January 10, 2020, the car sold for only the third time for $3,400,000, nearly a 1,000 percent more than when Robert Kiernan bought it for $3,500 in 1974. With buyer’s fees, the total sale price was $3,740,000. With the sale, the Bullitt becomes the most expensive Mustang sold at a Mecum auction.
Seeing the original Bullitt, for many of us, was a religious experience. To us, there’s not another car like it, and there will never be any other car to hold our admiration like Bullitt 559. When it comes to the car, we hope this isn’t “goodbye,” we hope it’s just “see ya later.”
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