New Bullitt Mustang (article)


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Quick as a Bullitt
All you need to know is hot coupe comes in Highland Green
Jim Kenzie
Toronto Star

Nov 09, 2007

SAN FRANCISCO–When Ford introduced the first Mustang Bullitt in 2001, it set a record for length of time from the debut of the movie to the launch of the commemorative car: 22 years.

It beat the former title holder, the Alfa Romeo Graduate, by five years.

Ford is a little quicker off the mark with the second-generation Bullitt, only three model years after the introduction of the new Mustang, and just in time for the 40th anniversary of the movie.

The car that Steve McQueen drove through the streets of San Francisco, in the best movie car chase ever, was a 1968 390 GT, equipped with American Racing Torque-Thrust wheels, with all the badges stripped off.

That was the recipe for the 2001 Mustang Bullitt, and they've followed it again with the 2008.

Only 7,700 copies of the '08 Mustang Bullitt will be built, 700 of them destined for Canada.

As before, the Bullitt edition starts as a Mustang GT Coupe. The exterior design was headed up by stylist Doug Gaffka. "I saw the Bullitt movie when I was a kid, and that made me want to become a car designer!''

A dream-of-a-lifetime assignment then.

This is the first factory-built Mustang without a pony motif in the grille – the 2001 edition had it blacked out. The 2008 car also uses a unique black mesh insert, surrounded by a chrome trim ring.

The only badge on the exterior is the word Bullitt – for detective Frank Bullitt – in the faux fuel filler cap on the rear deck lid.

The rear fascia is standard GT, but with 7.6 cm chrome exhaust tips.

Like the movie car, the 2008 Bullitt comes in Highland Green. If you insist, they'll sell you a black one.

Aluminum touches highlight the interior: on the dash, trim rings for the gauges, pedal covers and on the shift knob, replacing the standard leather unit.

Black leather seats have bolsters modelled after those in the Shelby GT500.

The mechanical changes to the car seem at first blush to be less than for the 2001 edition – no Brembo brake rotors, for example. But because the base car is so much better than the 2001's donor vehicle, less is needed.

A new cold-air intake system, new full-dual exhaust system and recalibrated engine management system boost the 4.6 L V8's horsepower from 300 to 315, and peak torque from 320 to 325 lb.-ft.

These numbers are on regular fuel. The engine management system detects fuel quality and can increase output if premium is used.

There's an interesting story about the exhaust system: Ford engineers digitally remastered the movie soundtrack to try to duplicate the McQueen car's exhaust note as closely as possible.

The Tremec five-speed manual transmission is mated to a shorter (higher numerical) 3.73:1 final drive ratio (versus 3.31:1) for quicker acceleration.

New struts and shocks are designed to improve handling with limited deterioration in ride. Dark Argent Grey Euroflange wheels mimic the 1968 originals, but at 18 inches in diameter, they are substantially larger.

But the most important change to the suspension is doubtless the brace connecting the tops of the front shock towers.

As stiff as modern car bodies are, you wouldn't believe how much flex the strut towers can undergo in hard driving.

Not with this set-up.

New carbon metallic front brake pads provide better feel and fade resistance. The calipers are painted grey, again like the '68 car.

Skyline Dr. runs south from San Francisco to San Jose, along a mountain ridge between the Pacific Ocean and Interstate 280.

You can have a lot of fun and not exceed the 50 mph (80 km/h) speed limit. That's good, because on one stretch of road, we must have passed seven police cars heading the other way in five minutes.

The single most significant improvement in the car's performance comes from that strut tower brace. The front end bites significantly better on this car than in the base GT. The rear axle will still hop around under extreme provocation, but it's well controlled.

The steering is, like the base GT, almost video-game light. More resistance and feel would be nice, but you soon become used to it.

Ride quality barely suffers at all. This is still a very civilized car and could easily be a daily driver.

I defy anyone to subjectively notice a three-tenths of a second improvement in the 0-to-100 km/h time, but you never feel undergunned in this car.

A six-speed gearbox would also be nice, but with this much torque and the shorter final drive ratio, third or even fourth gear works for most twisty roads.

Yet on the highway, the engine is barely purring, turning about 2000 rpm at 100 km/h.

Of course, you have to wonder why in Fantinoland anyone would consider a car like this. The OPP would probably arrest you if they saw this thing parked in your driveway. Even the U.S. customs officer who processed me at Pearson on my way down here raised this point.

As for price, Ford has some explaining to do.

The day we drove this car, the Canadian dollar was sitting at $1.10 (U.S.). Yet the Bullitt's Canadian price is $38,494, consisting of $33,999 for the base GT and a $4,495 hit for the Bullitt package.

Not bad in itself.

But in the States, the car lists at $31,075, which at an exchange rate of $1.10 is $28,250 Canadian. That's a difference of $10,244, or 36 per cent, more in Canada!

No amount of "higher cost of doing business in Canada" can explain that away.

So if you want a Mustang Bullitt, there's got to be a Ford dealer in Buffalo who would love to see your big fat Canadian loonies – if a Canadian dealer can't tempt you with incentives.