It’s no wonder Steve McQueen has the nickname “King of Cool”. Watch him drive one of the world’s most iconic cars; a 1968 Ford Mustang GT fastback, in the 60s blockbuster movie Bullitt makes him worthy.
The acclaimed 1968 film contains some of the greatest car chase scenes ever to be filmed. And the 1968 green Ford Mustang GT that performed alongside it is also a world superstar.
The film has it all. Hot cars, high speed racing, strong central character and great locations. In the extended car chase sequences, McQueen is behind the wheel of the iconic green Mustang, desperately trying to escape two hitmen chasing him in a Dodge Charger. The stunts are epic, and the driver’s groundbreaking visual scenes have raised the bar for future films.
The cool thing about classic movies like this is that the cars and stars were actually doing the stunts for real. There was no CGI or green screen to fabricate the action. At that time, it was just a car, a driver and a running camera. The incredible stunts produced were the result of the courage and true courage of the cast.
McQueen personally selected the Ford Mustang for the film. He wanted an affordable car (at the time) that a city policeman could drive. It is therefore thanks to him that this mustang has become the most famous muscle car of all time.
The movie star and his stuntman
What some people may not know is that there were actually two cars used in the Bullitt movie. Ford Motor Company gave Peter Yates (the manager) two identical Mustang GT Fastbacks. One for the classic movie shots (which we will call the “heroes” car) and another for the famous stunt sequences: a stunt double.
Both cars underwent serious modifications by Hollywood movie car specialist Max Balchowsky in 1968. He did extensive overhaul work on both cars to prepare them for filming. Especially the stunt car that needed special treatment for all the brutal action shots they had planned for it.
At the end of 1968, after filming was completed, the hero’s car became private property and has been in use ever since. But the stunt car unfortunately did not. After filming was completed, Balchowsky had the badly damaged car towed to a wreckage yard. Considered lost forever.
The incredible discovery of the junkyard
In 2017, a man named Hugo Sanchez took an old, dusty cream-white Mustang to his local custom shop in Mexico for a makeover. He wanted to transform the old car into a clone of the famous mustang ‘Eleanor’ which appears in the film. I’m going in 60 seconds.
The store owner, a friend of his named Ralph Garcia, had suspicions about the car and decided to do a background check. What happened next changed their lives.
When Garcia passed the car’s build plate number into the MartiReport database (a highly regarded source for validating the authenticity of a classic car), he made their impulses work. The Trusted Database, containing history records for all Fords built between 1967 and 2012, revealed that the car had a build number consecutive to the Hero Car.
A little ecstatic, but nervous, Sanchez then ordered a full car inspection again. And just like an episode of CSI, the inspection revealed a whole bunch of new clues. Fortunately, everything is very positive.
Inspectors found evidence of welding work on the shock towers, consistent with the work Balchowsky did to strengthen the stunt car. The left rear inner wing had a hole, which matched a hole drilled in the Bullitt stunt car to accommodate an exhaust pipe for the trunk mounted gasoline generator which provided additional power for the lighting of the trunk. car. The front apron also showed traces of the original repair work. And to top it off, after sanding down a small part of the car, they found a base coat of Highland Green.
With all the VIN stamps on the matching car, the final conclusion was that this was definitely the missing stunt car. For Sanchez and Garcia, it was time to celebrate.
Turns out the stunt car was actually sent to a local scrapyard near the film set. An unknown buyer then had it shipped to Mexico. It ended up in a small dump, behind residential housing in Los Cabos, at the southern tip of Mexico’s Baja California peninsula, where it went unnoticed for nearly forty years. How he managed to escape the crusher is just a miracle.
And while searching for a suitable “Eleanor” car, Sanchez came across the scrapyard. He bought the car along with another coupe, for just $ 5,000, from the scrapyard owner – who must be kicking himself right now.
Sanchez attempted to do some of his own restoration work on the car before taking it to the workshop. But luckily, these were only slight changes. And luckily, he kept all the original parts that he managed to recover from the scrapyard.
Where is the stuntman today
The car is now jointly owned by Sanchez and Garcia. And they are currently restoring the famous stunt car to its former glory. So I hope that one day we will see the two cars together again.
But wouldn’t it have been great to have been a fly on the wall when Garcia broke the good news to Sanchez about the car’s true identity. His face had to be an absolute image. It must have been like getting a call from the lottery organizers to let you know that your numbers have hit the jackpot! Well done, Hugo.
The 1968 Mustang GT 390 of Steve McQueen’s “Bullitt” has just been auctioned for $ 3.7 million at the 2020 Mecum Kissimmee.
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