Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
To mark the 50th anniversary of Bullitt, one of the greatest car chase movies of all time, Ford has released a modern version of the 1968 fastback that cemented the Mustang as the all-time iconic American sports car. Thanks to the indulgence of the DG, I was able to obtain a press pass to see Ford’s latest offering at the Philly auto show.
While the 2019 car boasts a similar paint scheme and the same signature blacked out wheels as the 1968 Mustang Steve McQueen drove, that’s where the similarities end. The Bullitt has the same independent rear suspension as the most focused, Performance Pack version of the GT (the Mustang was long-derided by critics for its primitive live rear axle setup). In fact, the Bullitt shares most of its notable components with its performance-pack sibling. It has the same six-piston Brembo brakes up front to bring the nearly two-ton car to a halt and a limited slip differential to ensure the Bullitt can put its V8 muscle to the ground (or, for the more juvenile among us, to allow for proper grin-inducing drifts). While these performance parts might suggest that it’s a track devouring sports car, like the GT, the Bullitt will likely take a more grand touring approach to the muscle car.
The similarities in hardware raise the question: is this car any more than marketing gimmick? Compared to the GT, the biggest changes come in the power department. The Bullitt features an intake manifold from the glorious GT350 track car, a larger throttle body to allow the extra air to flow into the block, as well as a high performance engine tune to allow for more tomfoolery. The results: a healthy 475 horsepower (15 more than the standard car). From these upgrades we should expect a distinct – ahem, louder – engine and exhaust note.
One may criticize this car for its, let’s be honest, cosmetic mechanical changes compared to the GT. To car lovers, though, the Bullitt just has the X-factor. If Ford only cared about sales, it would not have gone to such lengths to satisfy old-school drivers (like yours truly) by only offering the Bullitt in 6-speed manual trim. The cherry on top: a classic white cue ball shift knob (which better sport the word “BULLITT” in all caps on it). While beauty is in the eye of the beholder, it’s hard not to stare at this thing when you see it in the flesh. The Highland Green paint paired with the simple, black 5-spoke wheels and tasteful chrome accents has to make this one of the slickest muscle cars on the road. The design pulls the car to the ground and the black wheels give it a more distinct stance than the GT: this car has real presence. If you want a proper American sports car that defies the laws of physics and can best the likes of the Porsche Cayman GT4 on track, look no further than the Chevy Camaro SS 1LE. But love the Bullitt for what it is: a beautiful, capable muscle car with subtle attitude – an homage to a different era of American motoring. If these two pulled up to a set of lights, I know which one I’d have.