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December 10, 2018

Long-Lost 1968 Mustang Driven by Steve McQueen in “Bullitt” Found in a New Jersey Garage for a Few Decades

The Ford Mustang driven by Steve McQueen in the movie Bullitt has been rediscovered after spending years forgotten in a New Jersey garage. The 1968 Ford Mustang GT Fastback stars in one of the most memorable of all cinematic car chases, with McQueen tearing it up and down the hills of San Francisco for almost 10 minutes in pursuit of two mob hitmen.

Steve McQueen drives his Ford Mustang GT during the filming of "Bullitt" in San Francisco in 1968. (Photo: Warner Bros)

Two Mustangs were used in filming: Good-guy McQueen drove a 1968 Ford Mustang 390 GT 2+2 Fastback. The bad guys drove a 1968 Dodge Charger 440 Magnum. Both had been lost to history, until the Dodge Charger was found in a Mexican junkyard in 2017.

Now, 50 years after it disappeared, the car driven by McQueen has also been found in January, 2018.

According to Vanity Fair, after Bullitt wrapped, the hero car was sold to a studio executive in Los Angeles, who kept it briefly before selling it, coincidentally, to a police detective. The officer shipped the car to New York and kept it for about three and a half years before placing a for-sale ad in the back of Road & Track magazine in 1974. His $6,000 asking price was somewhat steep, but Robert Kiernan, a New Jersey insurance executive and Mustang fan, went out to look at it. He bought it for his wife to use as a daily driver.

The Kiernans used the car avidly for years, adding more than 30,000 miles to its odometer. But, as with many vehicular toys, mechanical and family issues eventually intervened. “The clutch went out in ’80 and I was born in ’81,” said Sean Kiernan, Robert’s son, who grew up with the McQueen Mustang in his family’s garage. “So it kind of went into storage.”

A family collage with the famous Mustang. (Photos: Sean Kiernan)

The Kiernans have kept the car a secret, mainly to ward off rumormongers and gawkers. But that didn’t stop Steve McQueen from finding them in 1977. “Dad had owned the car for three years at that point. And he got a phone call from Steve asking about the car, how it was, if he’d changed anything on it. And McQueen said, ‘I would really like to buy it if there’s not too much involved with it. I’ll replace it with a similar, like kind of car. As long it’s not a crazy amount of money,’” Kiernan said. “But dad declined. He said, ‘Thanks, but no thanks.’”

McQueen didn’t take no for an answer. “I think a week later, a letter to my dad arrived from McQueen and it had the Solar [McQueen’s production company] letterhead and stamp on it. And it said, basically, ‘I’d love to talk to you again about purchasing my car back, if not too much money is involved. Otherwise we’d better forget it.’ And dad never reached out, he did forget it. And that was kind of the end of that.”

Steve McQueen’s last plea to buy the Bullitt Mustang in 1977.

Sean Kiernan inherited the car when his father passed away in 2014. “You know, it was never our intention to keep this car a secret from everybody. It just kind of happened with life.”

Kiernan decided to restore the Mustang in time for the film's 50th anniversary this year, and contacted Ford with his plans. Ford unsurprisingly jumped at the chance to showcase it at the Detroit Auto Show, alongside a new 2019 model.

50 years of history — the original 1968 Bullitt Mustang and 2019 Mustang Bullitt (Photo: Ford)

(Photo: Casey Maxon/Hagerty)

(Photo: Casey Maxon/Hagerty)

(Photo: Casey Maxon/Hagerty)

(Photo: Casey Maxon/Hagerty)

(Photo: Casey Maxon/Hagerty)

(Photo: Casey Maxon/Hagerty)

(Photo: Casey Maxon/Hagerty)

(Photo: Casey Maxon/Hagerty)

(Photo: Casey Maxon/Hagerty)




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