My daily driver is the ugliest car in the world. I know this for a fact because I have read all of the feedback on the reviews on various forums for this hideous machine.
By driving a Mini Countryman on public roads, I am deeply offending all of the tasteful and intelligent people who inhabit the comments section of every motoring website on the interweb and for that I am very sorry. My own personal taste is that bad that I actually think the big Mini looks kind of cute and I have even thought of it as quite beautiful when looking through its windscreen on a wet and winding mountain road as its 170 kilowatts and all wheel drive makes it look just about perfectly formed.
As you can imagine my dress sense is also appalling and I can’t be trusted to select my own clothes lest I embarrass myself with a terrible fashion faux pas. Fortunately I have a wife and daughter who act as my style police and they are there to save me from myself when I attempt to leave the house wearing socks with sandals. They are training my granddaughter to help me in the future but the youngest member of my style council isn’t quite there yet because she is still completely on board when I pair of Okanuis with Mickey Mouse t-shirts which obviously is an image that is just wrong for the majority of people. Unless you like Mini Countrymans of course.
My granddaughter may be learning the rules of excellent tastefulness and I know I am a lost cause in this department but in spite of this neither of us think that wearing skivvies is a good look. Except to a Wiggles concert obviously. And yet it wasn’t all that long ago that a skivvy made you look cool. In fact fifty years ago a skivvy was not only considered on point in the fashion stakes but it could help make you the King Of Cool.
To be honest, Steve McQueen could make anything good and he didn’t need a style because he was one all by himself. And he was known to wear a skivvy whilst driving a Mustang. For those of you who are less chronologically advanced as me, I recommend hitting google right now to gain more insight into this cinematic icon in order to get more context on the Bullitt Mustang and McQueen’s influence on the original car.
McQueen may have been an incredibly successful movie star but it isn’t difficult to believe that his first love was anything with wheels or wings as long as it had an engine which probably means that he would be a CarAdvice reader now if he hadn’t followed the path of many legends in dying fashionably young. The list of cars and bikes that McQueen drove is long and storied and include Ferraris, Porches, a very rare Jaguar XK-SS and a number of interesting motorbikes from iconic makers such as Triumph and Indian.
He was also a very successful motorcycle and car racer in his lifetime and in fact funded his early forays into acting by winning motorcycle races on weekends and using the prize money to survive before becoming the highest paid actor on the planet at the time. A Mini or two featured in Mr McQueens’ vehicular resume, believe it or not, including a 1967 Cooper that he owned and painted a metallic brown, a colour which let’s face it would be as cool as a skivvy today, and another Mini race car that he drove to third place in a race in a one-off outing in a British touring car race at Brands Hatch.
There is no doubt that the man was a genuine petrol head and this reality alone adds to his cool factor.
There was one car that he couldn’t buy or own in spite of his fame and income and that was one of the original 1968 Fastback Mustangs used in the movie that gives its name to the current Bullitt Mustang. Warner Brothers used two identical Highland Green Fastbacks to film Bullitt on the streets of San Francisco but only one survived the rigours of the famous car chase with its completely non computer generated jumps and power slides. The car that was too damaged to sell was scrapped, spending the last half century in a bone yard but was recently found and is currently being restored.
The other “Bullitt” Mustang was repaired after the filming wrapped and was sold to an executive of Warner Brothers before being passed to a detective (ironic because Steve McQueen played a detective called Frank Bullitt in the movie hence the name of the film and Mustang) and then to a family who used it as a daily driver for many years before storing it until now.
McQueen tried to buy the Bullitt from the family who owned it on a number of occasions prior to his death but was politely turned down because it was their family car. Youtube has a number of excellent videos about this original car which helps enhance the story of the Bullitt over the decades since its debut in the movie all those years ago.
Bullitt the movie is famous not so much for the quality of the acting or because of an engrossing storyline but mainly due to the outstanding car chase that only takes up around ten minutes of the entire film. The chase is between a Highland Green Mustang driven by McQueen and a Black Dodge Charger with eight hub caps and takes place through the streets of San Francisco before the Charger goes off the road into a gas tank and explodes. According to those who know much more than me about these things, this car chase set the standard for action car chases and scenes in movies for many years to come.
Given the lack of technology-added enhancements in 1968, it is certainly an entertaining ten minutes of cinema. Importantly, McQueen himself controlled much of the planning for the car chase, the emphasis on realism with the cinematography and the choice of a Mustang in the first place, as well as setting the cars up prior to filming, including the choice of wheels, removing badges and other touches that made the car look cool.
The 2018 Bullitt is a surprisingly good car regardless of whether or not you buy into the hype that surrounds it because of its story and the fact that it is available in relatively limited numbers. Yes it is very closely related to a standard GT Mustang but there has been just enough done to improve on the base car to make Bullitt special. Included in the price are a number of options that are available on the GT including magneride suspension as well as unique paint, wheels and badging that add to the already impressive standard inclusions.
The mechanical improvements are similarly subtle but effective with an open air box, GT350 intake and bigger throttle bodies which all add up to a small boost in power and a little more theatre in its soundtrack. You can have any colour you like as long as you take Dark Highland Green, except in other markets where black is also offered. Given that the provenance of this car’s history is tied so deeply to the original GT 390 in Highland Green, any other colour just doesn’t make sense even if it isn’t your first choice of hue.
You also can have any transmission you like as long as it is manual. There is a cue ball shifter atop the gear stick and the total effect of swapping cogs yourself together with the symphony from outstanding active valve exhaust complete with an automatic blip on downshifts is very satisfying even if it is very analogue in these days of self driving cars and almost mandatory automatic gearboxes.
Driving the car can be surprisingly gentle if you wish. There is never a doubt that you are driving a muscle car but the engine response is actually quite soft low in the rev range which may sound like a negative. In fact this makes the car very driveable around town in the real world. My wife jumped into the car after many decades of not driving a manual or anything that comes close to having 345kW under the bonnet and the easy clutch, direct gear change and moderate response off idle all ensured the experience was just fun, not frenetic.
Redline is 7400rpm so you can unleash more performance simply by using more of the tacho. Handling is similarly benign if you want it to be with the excellent magneride suspension making daily driving comfortable and compliant in normal mode and more spirited driving possible with the flick of a switch getting you to sport or track mode instantly. In fact the biggest surprise about the car is how comfortable it is and the fact that quality is well above what we were expecting.
My wife used the words Lexus and BMW in the context of how the car felt, having owned both those brands, and whilst it may not be quite at those levels it is much better than you would imagine. We test drove the previous model and didn’t like it at all so the 2018 Mustang and the Bullitt specifically is a good thing done well in our opinion. The limited edition number plate on the dash also adds to the positive experience of owning the car.
Negatives? The back seat is a bit silly really. More space for luggage would be a much better idea. I don’t think even small children would fit. There has been a lot of noise about safety in the Mustang but for us specifically the car is replacing a Harley Davidson in the garage so three stars looks truly amazing to me after many decades playing roulette with b-doubles and distracted untrained drivers on our roads with no real protection.
Fuel usage is also very likely to be savage. I haven’t checked the actual economy mainly because I really don’t want to know. Suffice to say that the fuel gauge moves quicker than most modern cars but not many cars turn petrol into beautiful noise quite as well as a naturally aspirated V8.
Undoubtedly CarAdvice and others will give you much more of the nuts and bolts about the Bullitt and its performance and handling, but I can say that initial impressions are that the car is much better than I expected and it is definitely a fun car to own and drive – partly because it is a good car and also because of the story behind it.
If I only I can find a skivvy in my size to wear whilst driving it.