Most Expensive Muscle Car Ever? 1968 Ford “Bullitt” Mustang

This car really needs no introduction. For those of you who haven’t seen the famous 1968 movie Bullitt, the title character, played by Steve McQueen, drives this Highland Green 1968 Ford Mustang GT throughout the movie. Some would argue the 10-minute car chase featuring McQueen’s Mustang and a black Dodge Charger is the most iconic movie car chase ever. There were two cars used to film the chase sequence, VIN ending in 558 for the jumps and 559 for close-ups. Designated by filmmakers as the “Hero Car,” this car was used for the majority of the chase scenes and has been in private hands since filming wrapped. It has fully-documented provenance detailing its ownership and has been analyzed by the experts at Hagerty who “…moved the car to our HVA National Lab in Allentown, Pennsylvania so that every aspect of the 559 Mustang could be exhaustively photographed and the body 3-D scanned.” The car is now one of only 26 vehicles on the National Historic Vehicle Register. Owned by one family since 1974, it was re-introduced to the public at the Detroit Auto Show in 2018. In April of that year, the car was exhibited in the HVA’s glass display box on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., as a tribute to McQueen. The car is now being offered for sale with no reserve at the January 2020 Mecum auction in Kissimmee, Florida where it could go down in the record books as the highest-priced American muscle car ever sold at auction!

The car has been modified for filming and it still retains most of those modifications today. There are metal tubes welded under the rockers for camera mounts along with holes cut into the trunk to allow cords to run from the generator to the cameras and lights. After filming wrapped, the car was sold to Warner Brothers employee who used it as a commuter for a short time. It then passed through the hands of a New Jersey Detective and eventually to the current owner’s family in 1974. The purchase price back then? Six thousand dollars! Even Steve McQueen himself tried to purchase the car and was turned down. You can read more about the history of the car and check out more photos here on Mecum’s website and here on Hagerty.com.

Mecum president and founder Dana Mecum says he expects the car to surpass the American muscle car auction record that was set at their 2014 Seattle event where a 1971 Plymouth Hemi Cuda convertible sold for $3.5M! As for the other Mustang used for filming, we featured (what is believed to be) it here on Barn Finds in 2017 where it was found in Mexico after being wrecked during filming. So, how high will the bidding go on this car? There are skeptics who think it won’t even pass the current Mustang auction record of $2.2M. There’s also speculation that someone like Jay Leno or the Petersen Automotive Museum may purchase it. What do you think? Is this the most valuable muscle car ever?

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Comments

  1. Rex Kahrs Member

    It’s interesting that the owners would not sell the car to Steve McQueen back in the 70s, but maybe they had some premonition that the car would appreciate in value.

    I remember seeing the move in the theatre when I was 10 years old, and the movie scared the $hit out of me. The thing that really scared me was when the crook with the glasses in the Charger fastened his seat belt…50 years later I still remember that scared me. I knew that this was gonna be a wild chase.

    27
    • Steve R

      It’s more likely they had an attachment to the car a didn’t want to sell.

      Steve R

      14
    • David Fowler

      I was with the car at the Mustang Owner’s Museum about a month ago and shot video for the museum. McQueen did not actually try to buy it he wanted to swap a similar car for it and never made any offer of money. I have video of the current owner stating this. I was also told that it sold for $3,500 twice. It is beat to heck and rust but because someone sat in the seat some rich guy will want to say I own it. I have over two hours of video of all over and around the car and the presentation the current owner gave but have been sick and cannot get edited and posted up.

      9
      • Jon

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        1
    • stillrunners stillrunners Member

      Yes it is….the letter and all…..he didn’t last much longer and he was a true gear head…..the owners not as much just lucky.

  2. Bob_in_TN Member

    This will be fascinating to watch play out. I have been privileged to see the car a couple times and have visited with the owner. It is for sure an American icon, perhaps the most well-known Mustang (and perhaps even muscle cars in total?). Lots of non-car folks know what it is.

    To illustrate the car’s notoriety, I have heard a story where some foreign business people were discussing American cars with American business people. (Might have been with Chinese or Japanese concerning supplies for the US auto industry, I don’t know the background or details). Anyhow, there were mostly blank stares when historic cars or prominent models familiar to us came up. But when someone said “Bullitt Mustang” they all knew what that was.

    Our local Mustang club is holding a “guess the auction price” contest just for fun. Other Mustang clubs are doing similar contests.

    14
  3. 86_Vette_Convertible

    I wish the seller all the best here. It’s ironic how a simple car can be worth so much just by the fact a famous person drove it in a movie. I heard about the other car being found in Mexico IIRC, and once it’s repaired what it could go for.

    7
  4. Dean

    As many times as I’ve seen it, I still get goosebumps when Bud looks in the rearview, then puts on and cinches the seat belt.

    13
    • Newport Pagnell

      If you’re talking about the Charger stunt driver, that would be Bill Hickman. Bud Ekins drove some Mustang shots and did the motorcycle slide in front of the Mustang.

      10
      • Gazzer

        Bud also subbed for McQueen in the Mustang in several shots. Steve had trouble getting the car all loose and kept trying to “save” it so Bud took over.

        4
      • Stan Marks

        I drove stunts back in the 70s. I worked with the late great legendary Bill Hickman, on The Seven-Ups, which was his last picture. in ’73.
        Want to know what happened to the Charger??

        https://jimsgarage.wordpress.com/2010/02/14/the-missing-bullitt-charger/

        5
  5. Johnny Demonic

    I love that she is still in ruff shape. I hope the car stays that way. Plenty of pristine restored 68 Mustangs out there….

    15
    • JOHN

      If someone attempted to “restore” that car after purchase they would lose literally a ton of money.

      7
  6. Troy s

    Notorious sounding car that’s for sure!! No sound deadening helped that out. That’s not money, more like capital.
    As bad as that Stang was it was the Charger that actually really moved out, read somewhere the Dodge could run circles around the green pony. What ever happened to the black Charger anyways?
    Favorite part of that movie is when the hostile looking dude buckles the seat belt and proceeds to tear up that hill, with that Mustang trying to get past the taxi. Nothing but ear candy!!!

    12
    • Mike D

      I read where the Chargers that survived were destroyed because they were not number for for legal street use. Don’t know if that’s true or not.

      • Bob Kellum

        There was only one Charger and two Mustang’s used in the fiming. The Charger was destroyed when it was sent crashing into the gas station.

        1
    • Stan Marks

      I really lost touch, it was so long ago, Troy.

  7. TVC15

    Movie cars appeal to two types of collectors , Movie collectors and car collectors so I think the bidding on this car will be exciting to watch , my guess $ 4 .8 million on the hammer .

    7
    • On and On On and On Member

      They’ll be coming out of the walls and woodwork on this one. I think we’ll all be surprised and shocked.

      10
  8. flmikey

    I just watched the movie recently ( the whole movie, not just the chase scene) and can anyone answer this question: was the Charger a stick or automatic? I thought I saw, for a quick second, that it had an automatic on the column…but then I saw the driver shifting it manually…

    5
  9. Newport Pagnell

    I’m going with a $6.8 million dollar bid from the Henry Ford Museum.

    4
  10. Dave

    I think low 8 figures. In my mind, a more universally significant car than a Ferrari GTO or Testa Rossa

  11. Tucker Callan

    What about Lalo Schifrin, and his Dirty Horns? He gets my Ford Blue going!! p.s. The outside mirror on the first car is from a `66 or `65, and the hood-lip is damaged.

    7
    • Troy s

      Lalo Schrifin, yes! Really liked his jazzy/tense music in one of my all time favorites,, the original Dirty Harry. Had the right vibe.

      1
  12. Dave

    Back in 1969, my older brother had the same car. He let me take it to the store and it was an amazing ride. The 390 roared, the 4 speed shifted like butter in my hand. The only problem was, it was all over way too soon. I wish he could have kept it, but he was starting a family and needed a larger car. I may never forgive him for that. Fond memories for sure.

    8
  13. William R

    I read that the sound for the Mustang was from a GT40.

  14. mainlymuscle

    I predict a disappointing $ 1.4 Million.

    4
    • Mike

      Agreed. A 390/4 gear fastback, really isn’t that special, though, I’d love to have it.

      1
  15. Chip Caruana

    Not to nit pick but it’s not a Muscle car. It’s a Pony car. Just sayin.

    3
  16. Marko

    My guess on the sell price at the auction is $3.5 million USD.

    The most interesting thing about the infamous Bullitt car looses a total of five hubcaps, screeching around corners.

    2
    • Ken Wittick

      The Charger lost the hubcaps…..

      12
    • TVC15

      Very close Marko !

  17. Dino Schumacher

    This car is iconic for sure but its really just a Mustang. I love this movie and what the car represented to me as kid but this is a little silly.
    The studio sold it to a private party who drove it as a daily and then it went to the current owners father who stuffed it away. If this car had been owned by McQueen it would be one thing, but he drove it in a movie. This multi-million dollar Mustang stuff has to stop!

    10
    • Mountainwoodie

      A great chase scene for sure and indelibly stamped on the consciousness of a generation of movie goers from a time when only a few actors rose to the level of popular culture icons. Steve McQueen was surely one.

      Really the car is just a memory data point. Think about it. Someone will spend million (s) on a car bought for use in a movie and because so many folks recognize it, the sky and the wallets of the people bidding on it is the limit. That doesn’t make a lot of sense; to even the senseless.

      But contemporary history is often a tactile experience and there is no value that can be placed on the endorphins released by the new owner saying .”Yeah I own the Mustang from Bullitt, wanna see it?”

      After all you can’t drive money in the bank :)

      9
      • TVC15

        Years ago I sold Classic Cars for a living at a Dealership in N.Y People would say ” That car costs as much as a House ” I would reply ” You can live in a car but you can’t drive a House “

  18. Terry Bowman

    Some things shouldn’t be sold , but placed in a type of “Hall of Fame” as in the “Movies Hall of Fame”. Ruby slippers, ET, Knight Rider and other props. Just my two cents.

    3
    • Steve R

      No one knew any of those props would become iconic at the time.

      Are you saying the owner should donate the car? Why shouldn’t he sell it, this may be the one time in his life where he has a chance to establish wealth that could last several generations. Who would pass up that opportunity. Whoever buys the car can donate it, the current owner has no obligation to do so.

      Steve R

      9
      • Terry Bowman

        Steve you make a valid point, in your first sentence. I’m not saying the owner should give it away, but never sold in the first place. Back to your first sentence. My point I was trying to make was, some things should be preserved, cherished and be seen.

        2
  19. Steve S

    When the new bullitt mustang came to the car show a half hour from where I live was to be introduced for the first time there. I was talking to a guy from Ford that was at the Detroit auto show and he told me that the Steve McQueens bullitt mustang was there at the Detroit auto show sitting next to the new remake of it. He also told me that the guy who owns the car said that was the only time it has been out of the garage or off his property or something like that If I remember right. The guy also told me that the original bullitt mustang is still in amazing condition with no rust on it. If the guy that owns the original bullitt mustang did plan on selling it I think he would call Steve McQueen and offer it to him instead of sending the car to an auction since Steve McQueen tried to buy it from him before and he turned him down and he knows that Steve McQueen wants his bullitt mustang that he drove in the movie. Plus if this car in the add was the iconic bullitt mustang why would the owner let it get in this bad of shape.

    3
  20. Steve S

    I forgot to add or his daughter. Since Steve McQueen ain’t with us anymore.

  21. Troy s

    Had it not been for the movie it truly would just be another Mustang GT 390 4 speed with 3.5’s in the rear. But it’s more than that. This exact car has dazzled folks for the past fifty one years, copied, cloned, fantasized about, wish I had it type of thing. Written about, lied about, nobody knew that much about it for years. We watch that dang chase over,,and over…and over yet one more time. The Charger I like, they should have put a set of Torque Thrusts on it and bigger tires. No flying hubcaps to count!
    The value here is more like rare original art work, name your price if you really want.

    8
  22. Ike Onick

    It’s not a “Muscle Car”!! It’s a “Pony Car”!! get it straight you alleged “Car Guys”. You are all old enough to know better.

    1
  23. Cold340t

    Love the movie chase. But ……Prefer the Charger! Cool the Family that owned the car kept it so.long and get to cash in. Instead of some flipper.

    4
  24. David Fowler

    I hope to get my video posted next week. I was at the Mustang Owner’s Museum about a month ago when it was on display there. I have over 2 hours of video of the car and owners. The front bumper, valance and grill all had to be replaced so not original metal. I am not sure that it is going to bring the big money but might. When there are drug dealers that make $60 million a day you never know what it will go for. It is for sure beat up and some of that was done with a piece of pipe and scrubber pads before the filming. It got crashed during shooting and fixed with lots of bondo and lacquer paint several times. The run did not go as smooth as a one shot wonder. I did video the current owner during interview that was about an hour long giving specifics on the car and how it sat for so long. The engine was recently rebuilt. There will be a bunch of Mustangs at the auction Mecum wanted to include mine that was in the Museum it has 41 options from Ford, one owner 12,000 miles. I believe the current owner stated that the Bullitt car sold for $3,500 each time it was sold in the past. It is in my video. He also said McQueen never tried to buy the car back he tried to swap a similar car even for it. Never made a cash offer.

    3
  25. Catie H

    What happened to the Charger?

    1
  26. Grandpa Lou

    Okay, lets try this again. I feel that this belongs in a museum, or is that an awful horrible thing to say and has to be deposted?

  27. TimM

    No doubt in my mind it was the best chase scene ever!! The two best muscle cars ever that they used as well!! In my opinion!! This will be interesting to see what it goes for but to rich for my blood!!

    • Stan Marks

      Second greatest chase scene was in “French Connection “.

      1
  28. RP

    I saw a short blurb on I believe it was Motor Trend TV where Steve’s son had a close to exact duplicate built. The only difference between his and the original was the beefed up modern undercarriage and suspension. Wow.

    1
    • JOHN

      Richard Rawlings (AKA Gas Monkey Garage) built the car you are referring to I believe.

      1
  29. stillrunners stillrunners Member

    yep…and after this one sales….we’ll see the junk yard one go across the block…….

  30. Del

    yeah. The Ford that spun out and caught up to a Big Block Charger 15 minutes later.

    We all love Ford Fairy Tales.

    Santa will be here with more soon..

  31. Jay E.

    I believe I recall that all the Mustang exhaust sounds were actually dubbed from a GT40? And that all the double clutching was totally unnecessary except for the movie sounds?

    4
    • Frank Sumatra

      Except the double-clutching sounded effing cool. The chase scene would have been weaker without that sound.

      2
      • flmikey

        I would like to think that the Mustang had to be double-clutched because Steve McQueen blew out the syncro’s during that smoky reverse burnout when he missed the turn…

        2
  32. Paul

    Honestly, the car has immense historic relevance, but paying 3.5 million? With that kind of money I’d buy a trio of 300sl gullwings and have change to build a bullitt clone ;)

  33. JoeNYWF64

    Why does this car have a chrome cover on the rocker panel, while the movie car’s one is green?!
    & door mirrors do not match either & are mounted on different spots on the doors.

  34. Stan Marks

    There were 2 Chargers used in the film. Normally one is used for wrecking and the other is used for close-ups.
    When I worked on “Rockford Files”, we must have used 4 or 5 Pontiac Formulas. Two were kept clean and the others pretty much lived in the body shop.
    I drove the red and white Ford Torino, in the first season of “Starsky & Hutch”.
    I also drove the red Dino Ferrari, before Magnum took it over.

    2
    • Mountainwoodie

      Sounds like you had a fun career. Welcome aboard.

      • Stan Marks

        It was fun. Worked with a lot of people.
        Back in the 60s,I knew Steve McQueen.
        In ’63, I was on active duty, at Army base, Fort Ord. I was working KP and got to serve McQueen and his director. They were filming “Soldier in the Rain”, along with Jackie Gleason and Tuesday Weld. During lunch, Steve and I were talking. I mentioned to him, I did a lot of extra work, in L.A.
        He got me some extra work on his film.
        During the 70s, I drove stunts on the cop shows and also worked in transportation, as a driver captain.

        4
    • Troy s

      Stan Marks, I’ve read that two Chargers were used but possibly a third? Reason being claimed by some is that a blue one and a yellow one were painted black for the movie. The colored paint becomes visible as the Charger gets body damage. One automatic is also brought up. Any truth to that stuff?
      Tough guy actor who payed the shooter was completely scared to death in that black Charger, I mean terrified! With Bill Hickman at the wheel I can’t really blame him. Haha!

  35. David Duivesteyn

    Wow the car is in horrible shape. The owner should be ashamed of himself for having it for 45 years and letting fall into disrepair.

  36. Mountainwoodie

    The Bullitt Mustang sold for 3.74 million PLUS the Mecum cut………..phew….

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y1kzTyqcN9U

  37. Rex Kahrs Member

    I saw the car yesterday at the Mecum event in Kissimmee. It just looked like a beat-up old green Mustang. But I get the whole mystique around the car…just not 3.7 million worth of mystique!

    Now, the collection of 5 Imperial Crown convertibles, one each from ’57 through ’61, all in pristine restored condition…well now that was something to see.

    • Mountainwoodie

      I was wrong about the end price……..it was 3.7 including Mecum’s rake.3.4 for the car I think.

      I’d like some of those Imperials too :)

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