A Tribute to Cool
Article and photography by Richard Butschi
It is considered to be the greatest car chase scene in the history of film. Orchestrated and filmed without the aid of computer enhancement in 1968, the movie “Bullitt” set the standard for all future car chases. It starred the “King of Cool”, Steve McQueen, who also owned Solar Productions that produced the movie along with Warner Bros. It won many awards, including the Oscar for Best Editing and was nominated for Best Sound. Later it was elected into the U.S. National Film Registry. McQueen considered the ‘68 Mustang GT to be one of the stars, which few could argue with as it was released by Ford as a commemorative edition in 2001, 2008-’09, and in 2019. There is also a “Bullitt” club with thousands of members world-wide, called the International Mustang Bullitt Owners Club.
Marguerite Yeutter, of Iowa City, is one of those IMBOC members. She originally was looking for a Shelby Mustang on the web, but located this Highland Green beauty in Marion in 2013. She fell so in love with the car that she became a lifetime member.
The ‘08-’09 edition came in green or black. Fog lamps were removed, along with the emblems, and it was painted in satin finish to give it a more rugged look like the original ‘68. It is said that McQueen took sandpaper to it to add that driven-hard appearance. The engine is a SOHC 4.6L V8, making 315 hp with special strut bracing with an ID number plate. A 5-speed manual transmission was the only choice available, which may have cut down on sales. The gear shifter is a “short-throw” with aluminum knob. Yeutter’s has been modified and has a black knob with “3122” inscribed. The dash is done in aluminum, with special gauges, door handles, seats and other touches. There is a cross-haired “Bullitt” medallion on the rear, near the 3.5” chrome exhaust tips.
Yeutter plans on keeping her Bullitt forever, attending local shows, cruises, cruise-ins, and the Nationals for Bullitts, which are held at various locations around the country. In 2013, she and husband, Terry Clark, took it to Panama City, FL, for their first National Show. They’ve been to Detroit twice for the Woodward Dream Cruise and Colorado Springs once. In ‘18, they drove Rte. 66 to the Steve McQueen Car & Motorcycle Show at the Boys Republic in Chino, CA, where McQueen was once a resident in his troubled teens. It later became a charity of his and he visited often.
There were 2 identical Mustangs used in the making of the movie, They were outfitted with 390/325hp V8s and manual 4-speeds. McQueen, a race-proven driver, did some of the stunt driving in the movie. Some shots show him in the car very clearly. At other times, you could tell if McQueen was driving by noticing if the rear view mirror was tilted up out of the way, or down. If up, it was Mr. Cool, himself. The actor in the villain’s ‘68 Dodge Charger (yes, the one that is shown losing 5 hubcaps during the chase) was actually a stunt driver friend of McQueens. He hired many of his close friends for the movie, including Bud Ekins, who jumped the imposing barbed-wire fence in The Great Escape (1963) rather than risk injury to McQueen.
Of the two original ‘68 Bullitts, one was reportedly found in Mexico in pretty sad shape. The other was sold to a Warner Bros employee, passed on to a detective in New Jersey, then on to Robert Kiernan of NJ for a mere $6,000. McQueen tried to buy it many times. It was shown with the 2019 Bullitt Edition debut at the 2018 Detroit Auto Show. Kiernan’s son, Sean, inherited the original in 2014, and has decided to sell it at the Mecum Auction, January 2-12, 2020, in Kissimmee, FL. It will cross the block on Friday, the 10th and is expected to bring about $5,000,000! Don’t forget your checkbook!