Iconic Car Celebrates Special Movie at The NAIAS

DETROIT – Steve McQueen already had established himself as ‘Hollywood Royalty’ thanks to motion picture screen classics such as “The Magnificent Seven,” “The Great Escape,” “The Cincinnati Kid,” “The Sand Pebbles” and “The Thomas Crown Affair”. But it was for “Bullitt” in 1968 that he became both an icon and a legend thanks to the single greatest car chase ever shown on the big screen.

To celebrate the movie’s 50th anniversary, Ford Motor Company is showcasing the vintage Mustang that McQueen drove at this year’s North American International Auto Show in downtown Detroit. Ford is also going to produce a 2019 limited edition model.

2018 bullitt poster.
2018 Bullitt poster

In 1968 there were two identical green Mustangs used during the filming. The 1968 Ford Mustangs were 390 GT 2+2 Fastbacks with four-speed manual transmissions. The cars were loaned by the Ford Motor Company to Warner Bros. Studios as part of a promotional agreement.

It was the beginning of product placement in the motion picture business.

The famous lengthy chase scene with the great cinematography wasn’t in the original script. The editing of these scenes added to Frank P. Keller’s reasons for winning the Academy Award (Oscar) for Best Editing.

“Bullitt” followed the story of a San Francisco police detective assigned to protect a witness set to testify against powerful organized crime figures. Co-starring the lovely Jacqueline Bisset and Robert Vaughn, the film was a global success, both critically acclaimed and financial.

“He did the majority of the stunts himself,” said actress Molly McQueen, the granddaughter of the late Steve McQueen. “There were stunt drivers but he did a lot of them. He actually took up motorsports racing and was an accomplish race driver. My mom (Terry McQueen, deceased 1998) always told me amazing stories.” Molly McQueen further explained that her grandfather Steve passed away before she was born. “Yes, he was just as cool off screen. I think “The Cincinnati Kid” was my favorite movie. For the purposes of this experience, we’ll say “Bullitt” is my favorite,” she added with a broad smile.

2018 naias steve mcqueen car bullitt.
1968 Ford Mustang “Bullitt” car owner Sean Kiernan with actress Molly McQueen, granddaughter of the legendary Steve McQueen at the North American International Show. (Photo courtesy of Lars Hjelmroth, Rolco Sports & Entertainment Network.)

In 2007, “Bullitt” was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress, as “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”

Steve McQueen was one of the rare few actors to effectively make the transition from television to movies. He was box office gold. This year also marks the 60th anniversary of the CBS-TV popular and famous Western “Wanted: Dead or Alive” with McQueen as Josh Randall. He previously had another period Western television hit in the “Bounty Hunter.”

north american ias logo.
North American IAS logo

Airing from 1958 to 1961, “Wanted: Dead or Alive” was a Saturday night network favorite with McQueen as Randall, the bounty hunter with the sawed-off Winchester rifle. Though he brought in criminals for the cash reward, his character continued to prove to the people of whatever town he rode in week after week that he was one of the good guys on the side of justice and fair play. His character had humanity while it dealt with the dregs of the old west. The show ran for many years in syndication. Reruns of “Wanted: Dead or Alive” can be seen on Heroes & Icons, Encore Westerns, and Me-TV, all nostalgic TV broadcast networks.

Before he died in 1980, McQueen took up another passion, flying.

Look for the 1968 Ford Mustang “Bullitt” as well as the 50th anniversary edition 2019 Ford Mustang Bullitt on display at the NAIAS in Detroit.

Contributing were Jason Rzucidlo and Ford Motor Company Media Relations

Raymond Rolak is a veteran sports broadcaster who writes on a range of sporting events, plus automotive and aviation topics of interest.