2019 Ford Mustang Bullitt: To be Frank, nostalgia doesn’t come cheap

Posted by Shane Kalicharan about 10 months ago

Nostalgia reminds us of the best of times, and more often than not, sugarcoats the worst of times. It’s especially true with cars. Driving a vintage car is certainly a special experience, but to objectively say cars used to be better back in the day just isn’t true. (Unless we’re talking from a design point of view, in our opinion.) A modern car is very likely to be faster, safer, more efficient, better equipped, more reliable, more comfortable and better built. Yet so many of us yearn for those cars we grew up with or fantasized about in our younger days. Why? Because regardless of their on-paper drawbacks, they speak to us on an emotional level – and at the end of the day, it’s hard for any technical prowess to take precedent over an emotional response. Auto manufacturers know this and often try to speak to that emotional centre with special or limited editions reminiscent of their classic models. In some cases, it’s nothing more than a meaningless decal or badge, with only cosmetic touches setting the vehicle apart from a standard model. Other times, it’s an all-out modernized recreation of a classic, like Ford’s GT. And sometimes, it’s an attempt to find the best of both worlds, as is the case with this Bullitt edition Mustang.

So who or what exactly is Bullitt? If you didn’t grow up in the 60s and to you, Steve McQueen is the director of ’12 Years a Slave,’ Mr. Bullitt, played by McQueen, was the lead in a 1968 movie of the same name, featuring what is regarded as one of cinema’s best car chases. The star of that chase – a 1968 Mustang Fastback, finished in dark green, blacked out wheels and trim and some badges removed. The idea being, with the understated finish, bad guys wouldn’t expect it to pack the performance it had on screen. This 2019 re-imagining of the Bullitt follows a similar philosophy, removing the iconic pony badge, blacking out the wheels and ‘5.0’ fender badges and finishing the car in the same Highland Green paintjob (black is also available). Replacing the rear badge and steering wheel emblem is a stylized ‘Bullitt’ logo – which, from our point of view – just looks silly and out of place. The whole point of the Bullitt was to be understated. But we digress.


The stripped down approach continues on the inside too. Our Bullitt was fitted with body-hugging leather-trimmed Recaro bucket seats. They are completely manually operated. Possibly to keep weight down. Possibly to keep costs down. The seats get the Recaro logo stitched in a green matching the exterior. You’ll also find that same contrast stitching throughout the rest of the dashboard. The shift knob has seemingly been replaced by a cue ball, adding to the retro feel of the car. It feels nice in the hand too. Otherwise, the interior is typical Mustang. The Bullitt also comes with a custom ‘boot’ screen on the digital gauge cluster. Don’t expect much luxuries here though – or a sunroof.


But the real reason anyone might buy a Bullitt is because of how badass the original looked in that car chase back in ’68, camera trickery be damned. Well, there’s good news – the Bullitt is more than just a cosmetic package. Without getting technical, Ford’s engineers have added some uprated hardware including 6-piston Brembo brakes, a tweaked suspension setup and some retuning of the GT’s 5.0L V8, including borrowing some parts from the Shelby GT350. All in all, we get improved handling and 20 more horsepower.  


So what do you get from all of that? Well, the car is a blast to drive, and while we didn’t have access to the streets of San Francisco, the roads around Toronto worked just fine. If you’re careless behind the wheel, all those videos you see of Mustang drivers losing control upon leaving car shows start to make more sense. Ford’s engineers have given the Mustang enough rear slip to keep things lively. Just know your limits because even with traction control on and in the ‘normal’ setting, it is pretty tail happy. But we wouldn’t expect anything less from a Mustang – horrible fuel consumption and all. But really, nobody buys a V8 Mustang for economic reasons.


It looks sharp and drives like a law enforcement agent with a bad attitude would want it to. So what’s the downside? To us, it comes down to dollars. Yes – there is the exclusivity and unique visual cues of the Bullitt…but this more stripped down model costs more than a fully optioned Mustang GT. We tried the GT and really didn’t feel the extra power that comes with the Bullitt. For our money, we’d rather get a better equipped GT Fastback. If understated is the goal, you can still opt for the same Shadow Black available on the Bullitt – and choose a stealthy dark wheel finish – and still remain under cost. But, for some, Nostalgia is worth the price. If you crave exclusivity, still yearn for yesteryear and need a Mustang in your stable, you can’t really go wrong with the Bullitt. For everyone else, we’d opt for the GT.

Tags:
Ford, Ford Mustang, Mustang GT, Bullitt, Bullitt Mustang, Car Chase, Hollywood

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