Who can forget the iconic 10 minute chase scene from the movie Bullitt, the 1968 classic, where Steve McQueen a.k.a. Frank Bullitt drove his 1968 Mustang GT through the streets of San Francisco attempting to catch the bad guys in a villainous Dodge Charger. The images of that chase are still burned into the minds of those who saw the movie. It was that image in mind that Ford would bank on, some 33 years later, when they launched the 2001 Bullitt Mustang.
Ford saw a glimpse of its potential when the concept version received rave reviews when first revealed at the 2000 Los Angeles Auto Show. Styling changes were subtle, yet sufficient enough, that enthusiasts were immediately aware of its heritage. Based on the popular Mustang GT, the Bullitt would be a big improvement over the GT with better handling, braking and performance.
Exterior appearance changes included a unique front fascia and the deletion of the GT’s fog lamps. The non-functional bug catcher hoodscoop was slightly different than the Mustang GT. “C” pillars, rocker moldings and quarter-panel moldings just forward of the rear wheels were revised and a “Bullitt” badge was positioned on the left side of the deck lid. Additional revisions to the exterior were very retro looking five-spoke Torque-Thrust D inspired wheels. Fuel was delivered via an aluminum fuel filler door. The rear spoiler, standard on the GT, was deleted for a cleaner look. Colors were limited to Dark Highland Green, True Blue and Black with sales of each being 3,041, 723, and 1,818 respectively.
Opening the door revealed specially designed sill plates with the “Bullitt” logo. The retro speedometer and tachometer were designed with ’60s-style graphics in mind. A brushed aluminum shifter knob and bezel provided a few of the interior visuals to imply you were entering a racecar. Add to that the rearranged (for improved heel-and-toe driving) aluminum pedal covers and distinctive leather seats and owners were grinning ear to ear.
Yet all of those visuals would be for naught without additional power to match its looks. Bullitts’ modified 4.6-liter V8 was rated at 265 horsepower, an improvement of five horsepower over the GT. Torque was also up slightly from the GT. When released, the press chastised Ford for not giving the Bullitt more power. But the slight, on paper, improvement didn’t begin to illustrate the difference in seat-of-the-pants performance. Changes included twin 57 mm throttle bodies, a Ford Racing aluminum intake manifold, underdrive pulleys and an exhaust system with 20 percent better flow capabilities. It was pretty clear the Bullitt engine produced more than the advertised horsepower.
The added power would be lost without the means getting it to the ground. Art Hyde, Ford’s chief program engineer, left no stone unturned when he tweaked the suspension. All Bullitt cars moved up and down via re-valved Tokico struts while revised spring rates lowered the car about .75-inches, improving the center of gravity. Hollow front and rear anti-roll bars replaced solid units. Subframe connectors tied everything together and large Brembo brakes snatched from the SVT Cobra parts bin brought the Bullitt to a stop in a New York minute.
Ultimately 5,582 Bullitt Mustangs were sold. It proved to be a solid performer that did nearly everything exceptionally well at about $3,000 less than a Mustang Cobra. And while the Mustang Cobra is an outstanding vehicle, it’s the Bullitt Mustang that will always be remembered for kicking butt and taking names on the streets of the City by the Bay.
Specifications Number built– 5,582 Construction – Unibody Engine – 281 cubic-inch single overhead cam V8 Power/Torque – 265 horsepower/302 lb-ft torque Transmission – five-speed manual Suspension front – independent, modified McPherson strut with separate spring on lower arm and stabilizer bar Suspension rear – non-independent four-bar link with coil springs on lower arm Steering – rack and pinion Brakes – Brembo four-wheel disc brakes, 13.0-inch front /11.65-inch rear Length/width/height – 183.2/73.1/52.5 inches Wheelbase – 101.3 inches Weight – 3,250 lbs. shipping weight 0-60mph/quarter-mile – 4.8 seconds, 13.5 seconds at 105 mph (testing a 2001 Mustang Cobra – Car and Driver) Top speed – 148 mph MPG – 15-21 Estimate Price – MSRP $26,320 Today – $8,812 - $10,662
Fuel For Thought Offers a 10+ cool factor at a reasonable price Highland Green never gets old Special exhaust tuning turns heads a block away Stronger Tremec TR-3650 replaced the T-45 five-speed transmission
Engine The much underrated 265 horsepower V8 put out .943 horsepower per cubic-inch. Performance changes unique to the Bullitt gave a much flatter torque curve and improved better seat-of-the-pants feel. Compression was raised from 9.0:1 to 9.4:1 for 2001.
Handling Few, if any vehicles, especially in its price range, could hold a candle to the Bullitt. The low center of gravity and revised suspension pieces afforded a fun ride in tight turns. The revised location of foot pedals improved the ability for quick shifts.
Strong Points Perhaps the best known movie car heritage in history Outstanding handling and performance Low production means future appreciation
Weak Points Critics weren’t impressed with its horsepower No automatic transmission Not available in a convertible
Alternatives 2001 Pontiac Trans Am Firehawk Number built – 540 units 0-60/quarter-mile – 5.16 seconds, 13.36 seconds at 106.62 mph Top speed – 155 mph Est. Price – MSRP – $31,144 Today – $6,500 - $8,450
2001 Camaro SS Number built – 5,962 units 0-60/quarter-mile – 5.19 seconds, 13.49 seconds at 107.34 mph (testing a 2002 Camaro SS) Top speed – 150 mph Est. Price – MSRP – $21,615 Today – $5,500 - $7,350
Insurance Cost Insurance cost is $306 per year on a 2001 Bullitt Mustang valued at $15,000. *Based on a quote from Heacock Classic Car Insurance www.heacockclassic.com
Vehicle Category Mustang owners including those who own Bullitt versions share a common bond of using and showing their cars as much as possible. Mustang events pack parking lots on a regular basis. Very few cars are trailered to shows.
What To Pay 2001 Mustang Bullitt MSRP – $26,320 Low – $8,812 Average – $9,837 High – $10,662 *Prices courtesy of NADA, www.nadaguides.com.
Parts Prices Front fender $233.99 Wheels 18x9 inch $159.99 Front brake calipers (Bullitt) $435.00 Alternator $164.95 Carpet $122.57 *Dallas Mustang (800) 687-8264 www.dallasmustang.com
Books High Performance Mustang Builders Guide 1994-2004 by Cartech Mustang Special Editions by Brad Bowling and Jerry Heasley Road & Track Ford Mustang 1994-2002 Portfolio (Road & Track Series) by R. M. Clarke Mustang 1964½ - 2003 by Peter Sessler The Complete Book of Mustang by Mike Mueller
Review Ford took aim at a unique market segment and by doing its homework, hit a grand slam home run with the Bullitt. The program wasn’t about volume, it was about image and every time you see one on the road, your mind wanders back to 1968. That’s what Ford wanted and exactly what they got.