It’s not often that you get the chance to photograph the very first car of a series production vehicle, but the machine you see here is the very first, production 2001 Bullitt Mustang to roll off the River Rouge assembly line. Now, a decade after it was assembled, it is for all intents and purposes a brand new car and in an effort to preserve it, rarely sees the light of day. As a result, this particular photo shoot represents a rather special occasion.
And it’s perhaps not surprising that Bullitt 00001 is owned by the guy who led the development program for the car at Ford – Scott Hoag. When you talk to Scott, you get a sense of just how close the Bullitt came to not making it to production, but it did and the rest as they say is history. Here he gives us a little insight into the program and how he got the very first one off the production line (not as straightforward as you might think).
“The thing about the Bullitt is that it was never intended to be an actual program, it was originally conceived purely to fill a spot at the 2000 LA Auto Show. Sean Tant, who was design manager at Ford and close with the Auto Show group, was tasked with putting a last minute concept together and came up with the Bullitt Mustang. Sean and his guys worked over the Christmas break (1999-2000) to get this thing ready for the show. When it opened at 9 a.m. on the first day, almost instantly we had calls from the media back to us [Ford] about this special, dark green Mustang. At the time I was nameplate engineer for Mustang, but neither myself, nor our chief, Art Hyde, knew anything about the car. Finally we were able to trace it back to Sean and his group.
“At the time the Bullitt concept was unveiled, I’d been working on a proposal for a special edition Mustang, but it wasn’t going well and we were about to pull the plug – the [Bullitt] represented near perfect timing for us to replace that project. We put a proposal together and six weeks later we were granted approval. However development time was extremely short – nine months and given the fact that this particular special edition Mustang had a sizeable amount of unique content – special suspension, powertrain enhancements and styling upgrades – it was internally a milestone. At the time, such programs normally had a three-year development process.
“The Bullitt program was basically conceived on the premise that we couldn’t actually deliver a complete, production-ready car in nine months. But it was both good and bad. Bad because a lot of people didn’t have faith in us, but good because we were more or less left alone – the perfect cover for moving forward.”
In the end Scott, Art and Team Mustang did deliver, but another challenge was getting the word out.
“We essentially had no marketing budget with the Bullitt, so we got the word out via enthusiast networks, websites, car clubs like the Mustang Club of America and events like Fun Ford Weekend (in fact a Bullitt was the prize awarded to the winner of FFW’s Mod Motor class champion, Steve Ferguson). We devised an ordering code for the car, but because there was no true marketing for the Bullitt, customers went into dealerships and ordered a car that the dealers themselves often weren’t aware of.
“As for me, because the Bullitt was a ‘pet’ project I simply had to have one and ordered a car as soon as I could. The cars were built purely in sequence, so 00001 was the first off the production line (none of this pre-allocation stuff). The fact that I was able to get it was largely down to timing – there were several other members of our team who got them too – it was because we were personally invested in the program that we put our own money down to buy these cars.”
Today Bullitt 00001 has less than 1,000 miles on it and still smells new. Getting in it, smelling and touching the interior is like stepping back in time. “It’s the only car I’ve owned that I’ve not modified,” says Scott, “and I have no intention of changing anything on it. This particular car is a time capsule of the memory of the [Bullitt] project. Preserving it not only adds market value, but also emotional value.”