Bullitt Mustang : Return of a Legend
The lowered suspension (with re-valved Takico struts and shocks, special stabilizer bars both fore and aft and frame rail connectors all uniqueto the Bullitt) give a firmer, better balanced grip on the road adding to performance excitement. The mandatory five-speed manual moves smoothly up the gear sequence.
With the new transmission and clutch assembly, the stainless steel topped pedals are accelerated for effortless heel and toe shifting, making double clutch downshifting a breeze. There's responsive braking thanks to ventilated disc brakes. And down shifting is accompanied bythat same "wickedly wonderful snap, crackle and pop" of the original Mustang NASCAR427.The power-assisted rack and pinion steering and modified suspension, "massaged" to emulate the original, were substantiated during our test drives of the vehicle when the Bullitt effortlessly commanded every road it encountered. It is smooth and agile with gutsy acceleration and not a shade of lag on take-off.
The Bullitt cruises on pavement-devouring 17-inch tires with spoke aluminum rims, anear-mirror image of the Bullitt's original mag wheels. A suspension lowered three-fourthsof an inch, low ground-effect cladding and deep set side scoops link it visually with theoriginal fastback.Sound engineers must have set the newcomer next to the original when it came time to tune the dual exhaust system. It's that accurate according to those trained in the subtleties of the '68 version's powertrain, although Ford improved the air flow 20 percent to create a timbre all its own.
The Bullitt even wears it own "tattoo," a boldly distinctive and attention-grabbing brushed aluminum fuel filler door on its haunch. It just screams, "fill me, fill me," although the multi-port, EFI Bullitt Mustang, which can run on regular fuel, gets a respectable 18 mpg in city driving and 25 mpg on the highway.
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Credit Ford with being smart enough not to mess with a good idea in bringing out this revival of the Bullitt. Instead, it took a long look back at what made the movie's car soappealing.They got the original Bullitt so right that it seemed inevitable it could accommodate, unfazed, the high performance demand of the legendary chase scene that had actor SteveMcQueen's Lt. Frank Bullitt pursing the bad guy assassins, with movie viewers visually riding shotgun.
"You felt you were in the car," recalls one fan. It was stock Mustang, according to Ford. But they "magnafluxed" the suspension -- just in case -- checking it for any microfractures that could have broken open during the extremely heavy loads of a down and dirty chase scene.
And according to Ford's description, the Mustang GT in the film had a 390 CID engine.But we beg to differ on that major selling point. It has always been our understanding the 390 GT of the day was replaced by a NASCAR-derived 427, needed to out-torque the bad guys in their 440 Magnum Dodge Charger RT. (The Mustang 428 Cobra Jet was available that year.)
But let's get back to our original question. Is there anything lacking in the new Bullitt GT? Well, purists might be disappointed that Ford broadened the vehicle's appeal by adding two more colors - True Blue and Black - to the sacrosanct Dark Highland Green.
There are few enough of the cars available for uncompromising fanatics as it is, a sort of "reward car" for those who missed out the first time and now probaboy would jump at an MSRP of just under $27,500 or even pay a premium.
And there's something we're surprised Ford apparently didn't consider. That's to include a video or DVD of the Warner Brothers' classic film "Bullitt" so fans can replay that legendary chase scene all over again. But maybe their marketing people figured the select few who get to own this prize already bought the movie on their own. And select few it will be. According to Ford, only 6,500 of the limited edition Bullitts are to be built, each with a serialized identification number for instant collectible status.
That should make it tantalizing enough to be on every gearhead's wish list, but rare enough tokeep it a brass ring dream.And if Ford executives are as smart as they seem, this home run could be the first of aone-two punch meant to fill the gaping hole left by the demise of the Firebird/Camaro. Look for the possibility of a resurgence of the Mustang Mach 1 name on the horizon, perhaps as early as 2002.
So what's our last word on the Bullitt?
Charger. Hey Camaro. Pony power lives."
Dedicated to the memory of Robert "Bob" Peninger, a member of several southern California Mustang Clubs, who was a passenger on American Airlines Flight 77.
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