It’s absolutely crazy to think that the same 1968 Mustang GT Fastback driven in Bullitt by Steve McQueen himself, would end up in the hand’s of an unassuming New Jersey housewife… But that’s exactly what happened.
“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.” –Vanity Fair
The original 1968 Mustang GT Fastback from Bullitt in Sean Kiernan’s secret barn in Nashville. Inset, the letter from Steve McQueen to Robert Kiernan, dated 1977. (via Vanity Fair) Courtesy of Ford/Historic Vehicle Association.
“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.’
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.”
This was a decent decision. The car is now valued at $3 million to $5 million.” –VANITY FAIR