Let’s get the full disclosure out of the way first. I sometimes write capsules on vehicles that Mecum Auctions is presenting for sale, most recently several lots from its just-concluding extravaganza during Monterey Car Week. As I’ve said here before, that whole happening is awash in money. Which explains why Mecum stunned so many by rolling out the remains of the Ford Mustang that Steve McQueen used to rampage through San Francisco in Bullitt. Mecum presented the car at a media event during the Monterey sale and proclaimed that it will sell the fabled car at its auction in Kissimmee, Florida, set for January 2nd through 12th, 2020.
This is staggering news. After years of rumors and blind alleys, the Bullitt Mustang, authenticated by its VIN number, emerged at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit in 2018, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the movie and its jaw-dropping chase scene, considered the greatest in motion picture history. It’s the only survivor of the two Highland Green 1968 Mustang GTs, with 390-cu.in. power, that were used in the film. Both were modified for stunt workby Max Balchowsky, long a figure in California road racing circles who was famous for his series of Ol’ Yaller racing specials. One was crushed after the filming. The surviving car is being offered by Sean Kiernan, whose father bought it years ago in New Jersey, where it was being used as a daily driver, and left it unrestored. McQueen, who specified how the Mustang was supposed to look for the movie, tried unsuccessfully to buy it back late in his life. This is the most mythical Mustang of all time, hands down, beyond any dispute. So what will it bring on the block? Put it this way: When Bullitt was filmed, McQueen was the highest-paid film star in the world. Any kind of memorabilia associated with him is a guaranteed gilt-edged collectible. In 2012, the Heuer Monaco chronograph that McQueen wore during the filming of Le Mans sold for $650,000, more than double its pre-auction estimate. So do the math.