McQUEEN’S BULLITT MUSTANG FOUND | IT WAS A JERSEY WIFE’S DAILY DRIVER…

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.

steve mcqueen bullitt mustang gt fastback

“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

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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.

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STEVE McQUEEN’S MEAN MACHINES | THE 1957 JAGUAR XK-SS “GREEN RAT”

steve mcqueen 1957 jaguar green rat bw

Jaguar’s epic 3.4 liter, DOHC inline-six powered D-Types were originally built for competitive racing– with a few also falling into the hands of privileged private owners. But by 1958, the D-Type had become obsolete– new racing mandates now called for smaller 3.0-liter engines, which would hurt the D-Type’s performance on the track. Ferrari had proven themselves to be the masters of small-displacement, high-performance racing, particularly with their iconic Testa Rossa that could handily eat the 3.0 liter D-type’s lunch. Jaguar found itself needing to unload 25 of the 3.4 liter D-Types.

Jaguar execs decided to convert the old D-Types to street legal sports cars and sell them to the public as limited-edition GTs. The Jaguar was subjected to a series of street-legal retrofits, including– a full-width windshield, and a bare-bones top and luggage rack added to the rear deck replaced the original racing dorsal fin. Removable fixed-pane side curtains were then mounted to the Jaguar’s doors. A vestigial exhaust system was devised by engineers– complete with a guard to prevent laymen from burning themselves on the Jag’s exposed, aggressive sidepipes. The roadster’s lighting was converted to meet street specs, two nicely-appointed seats were added, a passenger side door and sleek bumpers were tacked-on, and they were ready to roll.  Tragically, 9 of the 25 XK-SS D-Types were destroyed by a fire at the Jaguar factory in 1957, making the remaining 16 all the more special.

One of these iconic roadsters would find its way into the hands of Steve McQueen– who enjoyed an on-and-off love affair with this special Jaguar up until the very end.

Perhaps no other car is more strongly identified with Steve McQueen, aside from the iconic Highland Green Mustang GT from the epic Bullitt, than his 1957 Jaguar D-type XK-SS.  He had his buddy Von Dutch custom craft a locking glovebox for the Jag to keep those Persols from flying out when he punched the gas. via

Steve McQueen first saw his Jaguar XK-SS parked on a studio lot on Sunset Boulevard, back when it originally belonged to Bill Leyden (a local LA radio/television personality).  McQueen bought the Jag from him for $5,000 in 1958– though some historians claim the purchase price was $4,000. Wife Neile recalled, “I know exactly how much we paid for it– I signed the check.” Once, McQueen was pulled over for speeding with Neile, 6 months pregnant at the time, sitting beside him.  He lied and told the cop that she was in labor.  They got an official police escort to the hospital, where nurses were waiting to rush Neile in. After the police left, McQueen told the staff that it was just ‘false labor’, and off they went. He was later quoted as saying, “Neile was pissed. She didn’t speak to me for the rest of the day. But, by God, it worked. I didn’t get the ticket!”

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REQUIRED VIEWING “BULLITT” | THE GRANDDADDY OF CAR CHASE SCENES

BULLITT

To say that Bullitt had a car chase scene is like saying Steve McQueen was a good actor. Both are arguably gross understatements. The history-making car chase from Bullitt is still considered the gold standard for which all such scenes are held to today.

McQueen hadn’t planned on a driving double– in fact, he firmly insisted on doing all the Mustang stunt driving himself.  But that all quickly changed– while shooting an early scene (that can be seen in the film), he missed a turn pretty hard and nearly lost it.  The studio exec’s immediately pulled the plug on McQueen’s plans and tapped professional stunt drivers with a little more practical experience and skill. As fate would have it, main driving duties were handed over to none other than McQueen’s good buddy (and auto and motorcycle racing legend) Bud Ekins.

The story behind the filming of this ground-breaking scene (I hate to say it) is more fascinating to me than the whole of the film itself.  Read on for great behind the scenes details on how history was made in pulling-off this incredible piece of work– the likes of which had never been attempted before.

BULLITT STEVE MCQUEEN

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Steve McQueen | “The King of Cool”

Steve McQueen, CA 1963.

Steve Mcqueen is an icon–  and I still don’t think we appreciate this guy enough for all that he did in his lifetime.  McQueen personified the “anti-hero”.  A true man’s man who raced cars and motorcycles, and had a very enviable collection of both.  He even flew his own plane, for cryin’ out loud.  What a life this guy had.  He ran away from home at 14- joined the circus- joined the U.S.M.C.- went AWOL- was eventually honorably discharged- worked in a brothel- on an oil rigger- and was even a lumberjack.  Later he was an avid martial artist and friends with Bruce Lee and Chuck Norris.  It was McQueen that convinced Norris to take acting lessons, which could be considered a somewhat dubious distinction, but one that I’m sure Chuck greatly appreciates to this day.  

As seen above, McQueen was no stranger to the workout room and had an exercise regimen of two hours a day, everyday.  I love this shot for two reasons- McQueen of course, and his irrepressible charm- but also for it’s statement on simplicity.  It reminds me of life when things were simpler, and in my humble opinion- better.  To workout all you needed was an exercise bike, free-weights, jumprope, a chin-up bar and of course- a rope hanging from the ceiling.  

I remember when this was a part of phys. ed. class.  All of us anxiously lined-up in our tube socks, waiting our turn to try to pull ourselves up that rope.  If you could, you were the man, and if you couldn’t, well…  And look at what else- he’s wearing simple, classic grey sweatpants and they fit.  No fancy– wicking, moisture management, antimicrobial blah, blah, blah.  Cotton was the original, and still the best performance fabric.  

Steve McQueen was, and still is the one that every guy wants to be, and that every gal wants to be with.  Sometimes you just can’t improve upon the classics.