RE: Number one with a Bullitt | PH Footnote

RE: Number one with a Bullitt | PH Footnote

Saturday 2nd November

Number one with a Bullitt | PH Footnote

Driven in the UK, the most expensive Ford Mustang makes a bewildering amount of sense



There are a couple of reasons to be suspicious of the Ford Mustang Bullitt, the 2018 special edition that marked the 50th anniversary of the Steve McQueen film of the same name. For one thing the car is covered in β€˜Bullitt’ badges, which perhaps makes it more cheesy pastiche than tasteful recreation since the 1968 Mustang GT Fastback McQueen drove in the film didn’t have a single such badge anywhere on it. And despite its much admired Mustang-versus-Charger car chase through the roller coaster streets of San Francisco, the film is actually pretty terrible. What’s more, McQueen was reportedly a complete arse and not afraid to strike a woman, according to his first wife’s memoir.Β 

So as a paean to a man and a movie, the Mustang Bullitt is a little bit smelly. That’s a pity because as a car it’s actually rather wonderful and it reinforces something I’m beginning to believe is true about modern performance cars, which is that North American ones are more fun than their European counterparts. Not technically better or more capable, but easily more enjoyable.Β 


Apart from all those badges (only one on the outside, in fairness, but many more within the cabin) the throwback Mustang also gets specific 19-inch wheels, optional Dark Highland Green paintwork that’s similar to the finish on McQueen’s car and no pony emblem in the front grille, which makes the Mustang’s face look very mean. The 5-litre naturally-aspirated V8 remains but with the induction system from the Shelby GT350 and a sports exhaust as standard equipment, plus a fraction more power than the Mustang GT (up from 450hp to 459). Costing a little over Β£48,000, which is some Β£5000 more than the GT, the Bullitt is no longer the tantalising bargain American muscle cars have tended to be.Β 

The final, most important part of the Bullitt makeover is the GT Performance Package, which includes bigger Brembo brakes and a completely reworked chassis with stiffer springs and a lower ride height, retuned dampers and tauter anti-roll bars. You can sit inside the Mustang’s roomy cabin and sneer at cheap leather and scratchy plastics, but the chunky Recaro seats are comfortable and supportive, the seating position is very good, the infotainment a little clunky in its graphics but faultless in its operation, while the fully digital instrument display works very well indeed. The white cue ball gear knob is maybe the subtlest and most agreeable nod to McQueen’s car.Β 


When you fire the big V8 it erupts noisily into life and rumbles and burbles beneath the bonnet like it’s trying to get out. Rev it all the way out in any of the first three gears the entire car fizzes with energy, feeling like it might rattle itself to pieces. The manual gearshift is just right and the soundtrack is thunderous, particularly in any of the sportier modes with the exhaust at full song, bellowing in a way no six-pot or turbo motor ever can. The Mustang has a driving mode labelled β€˜Drag Strip’, which made me smile every time I cycled past it, and with the traction control disabled you’ve got burnouts on tap.Β 

Extremely good fun, all of it - and all delivered with a sense of humour no Porsche 911 or Audi R8 would ever recognise - but it’s nothing new. Those things have been central to the muscle car proposition for 60 years. What’s beginning to change is the precision and sophistication with which the best muscle cars address a stretch of tarmac. All that juvenile stuff about noisy exhausts and smoky burnouts is only the tip of the iceberg with these cars, because when you dig deeper you realise how rewarding they have become to drive.Β 


Despite the multi-link rear suspension that finally saw the rudimentary live axle depart the Mustang’s stern a few years ago, the Bullitt still feels distinctly like a muscle car on the road. Wide and long, heavy, and with lots of movement in the body as the road rises and falls. If a 911 ever behaved like that you’d think its dampers had been nicked. But with the Mustang’s Β£1,600 MagneRide adaptive dampers in their firmer mode and a little more meat in the steering, the car seems to shrink in weight and dimension, responding much more like a sports car. In fact the steering is a real highlight. It perhaps lacks some of the textured feedback you get from only the very best electric systems, but it’s so long on precision and so intuitive in its rate of response at the front axle that you guide the Mustang along the road almost on instinct. You position the car with confidence, so even on a narrow road it feels far smaller than it really is.Β 

There’s good body control over a three-dimensional surface but not so much that the car feels aloof, plus massive traction that can of course be overcome quite readily if you prefer, and strong turn-in grip and real stability at higher speeds, too. That revised chassis has prevented the Mustang from feeling wallowy and out-of-control when you really push it hard, so although you still tend to stroke it along a winding B-road rather than hammer it the way you would a smaller European sports car, you can now get lost in the process of linking corners and not merely hold on, white-knuckled, hoping the car sticks, as was the way before.Β 


Taken to their extremes - for instance the GT350 I drove a couple of years ago at Thruxton and the Camaro Z/28 I tested this summer in South Wales - modern muscle cars can be even more adept when hustled than the Bullitt. Both are imperfect but also unbelievably good to drive, at least in their way and in the right setting. And soundtracked by an end-of-the-world score that’s been legislated to oblivion among European performance cars, with the added engagement of a manual transmission in each case.Β 

For the longest time, cars like the Mustang appealed only on a base level, being fun in a childish way for the first half-day until the amusement of noise and burnouts ebbed away. After that point you’d have swapped into something German, British or Italian in a heartbeat. But now that cars like the Bullitt and the far more hardcore GT350 and Z/28 actually steer, handle and stop as well as they go - and all with monstrous unassisted V8s and gearboxes that keep the driver working - I’m beginning to think the balance of power has shifted from our side of the Atlantic to theirs.


Search for a Mustang here.




Author
Discussion

FaNtheMaN26

Original Poster:

55 posts

6 months

Saturday 2nd November
quotequote all
Jesus talk about starting on a downer...

- How dare a special edition have badges
- the best car chase that side of ronin was in a ste film
- Steve McQueen was a women beater

Sets u up nicely for the rest of the article!! :-)

chelme

679 posts

117 months

Saturday 2nd November
quotequote all
Another superbly written article by Mr Prosser.

Honestly, you made such good points here, and whilst I am no muscle car fanatic, I can understand the appeal.

(as an aside I recommend watching Muscle Car of the Week, another very well written - and presented - programme on YouTube for anyone curious about the history of the American muscle cars and what was produced from the early 60s to the 70s ).

If there was a badge delete option and a badge deleted Bullitt on sale, I'd seriously consider one of these beasts.

inabox

245 posts

138 months

Saturday 2nd November
quotequote all
I want my rhd gt350

SidewaysSi

5,984 posts

181 months

Saturday 2nd November
quotequote all
The new GT500 looks and sounds wonderful. $100k with a few bits though.

cib24

811 posts

100 months

Saturday 2nd November
quotequote all
Fortunately, if the Bullitt seems a bit cliche and cheesy then it is worth pointing out that all Mustang GT V8s in the UK come with the same Performance Pack specification as the Bullitt (Brembos, suspension tweaks, PS4S tyres) and on 2019/20 models you can also specify the Magneride dampers and Recaro seats like the Bullitt, ending up with the same exact spec minus the Bullitt touches (wheels, paint, green stitching, cue ball shift knob, GT350 intake manifold, throttle body and intake for 10hp on the top end) for about £5,000 less.

And as you would expect modifications for a Mustang are endless and there are quite a few good suspension tweaks from Ford Performance, Steeda and others that will tighten up the suspension further if you really want to transform the car to a good A and B road machine.

macky17

1,951 posts

136 months

Saturday 2nd November
quotequote all
I agree with all this. We've definitely lost our sense of humour on this side of the Atlantic, Ariel and Caterham aside. All the more reason why it would be great if tvr return.

And yes, it was a crap film smile

Sandpit Steve

329 posts

21 months

Saturday 2nd November
quotequote all
Number one?

Looks distinctly like a number eleven from that first photo biggrin

FA57REN

140 posts

2 months

Saturday 2nd November
quotequote all
"the film is actually pretty terrible"

That's very subjective. But regardless of what you personally think, the film was very influential. Not only in terms of car chase choreography but the entire airport runway threshold finale was lifted wholesale for "Heat", for example.

mfp4073

1,431 posts

121 months

Saturday 2nd November
quotequote all
You either get the muscle car thing or you don't, to compare the Mustang with a European car means you probably don't. I have to admit Im just a bit of a muscle car fan.
However, show me a hot hatch no matter how good it actually is and I really don't get them and never have. Each to their own.
We are lucky to get the Mustang in the UK, in fact fans in the US are lucky it's still being made especially in this day and age, but for how much longer?
Sadly Muscle cars never had a mass appeal in the UK, mainly due to taxation and probably a higher than usual fatality rate, you really need to respect what they can and won't do.
The only other muscle cars we have officially had in the UK are Vauxhall VXR8's and Monaro's and that's pretty much it.
If these old school cars are your thing then get one as soon as your circumstances allow. Rest assured there will always be plenty of boring cars in future years....to a muscle car fan anyway.

Edited by mfp4073 on Saturday 2nd November 13:44

unsprung

3,773 posts

71 months

Saturday 2nd November
quotequote all



Heady stuff, Dan.

This time you've likely gone too far.

Make the signal and the agency will dispatch the Hercules, as we discussed.

https://youtu.be/dekJ2Ip7koo?t=76




EggsBenedict

1,419 posts

121 months

Saturday 2nd November
quotequote all
Long wide and heavy

Or mid way between a Porsche 911 and Taycan in length and width, and about the same as a 911 in weight.

It's not a hot hatch, but that much is obvious....

TREMAiNE

2,915 posts

96 months

Saturday 2nd November
quotequote all
I have to say, there is just something so special about the Mustang. Mine replaced a 987.2 Boxster S and whilst it doesn't drive anywhere near as well, it makes me smile all the time even when bumbling along at 30mph. I can't afford a Bullitt but I actually prefer the looks of the pre-facelift cars anyway

Mine is in Grabber Blue...


MuscleSedan

834 posts

122 months

Saturday 2nd November
quotequote all
TREMAiNE said:
I have to say, there is just something so special about the Mustang. Mine replaced a 987.2 Boxster S and whilst it doesn't drive anywhere near as well, it makes me smile all the time even when bumbling along at 30mph
Agreed.

Even at idle in traffic the V8 Mustang gives that something that is completely missing in 99.9% of current cars.

I guess its a kind of a throwback car - an old fashioned, simple and effective layout with just enough modern features to appeal but not so much as to spoil it.




AndrewD

6,958 posts

231 months

Sunday 3rd November
quotequote all
SidewaysSi said:
The new GT500 looks and sounds wonderful. $100k with a few bits though.
Well, not if you don’t tick the painted stripes and instead opt for vinyl ($1k instead of $10k) and don’t take the carbon track pack ($18k) which deletes the rear seats as well as adding GT4 carbon wing, carbon wheels and a few other bits you won’t likely need on the road.

XM3Doug

3 posts

108 months

Sunday 3rd November
quotequote all
I believe what the Mustang and other muscle cars bring is something most European performance cars have completely lost.........character.
When shopping for a new car I looked down rows of BMWs, Audis, Mercs and even Jags and nothing south of £50k stood out. I think car fans appreciate the odd foible as it sets a car apart, learning to live with it and work round it, bring some you closer to the car. The German cars are clinically fantastic at what they do, but they've lost their character.
Rant over😬
P.S. I swapped my 640d for an Orange Fury Mustang GT with all the toys previously mentioned 😁

SidewaysSi

5,984 posts

181 months

Sunday 3rd November
quotequote all
AndrewD said:
SidewaysSi said:
The new GT500 looks and sounds wonderful. $100k with a few bits though.
Well, not if you don’t tick the painted stripes and instead opt for vinyl ($1k instead of $10k) and don’t take the carbon track pack ($18k) which deletes the rear seats as well as adding GT4 carbon wing, carbon wheels and a few other bits you won’t likely need on the road.
But with the wheels and wing, you have to go for the track pack...smile

wab172uk

1,458 posts

174 months

Sunday 3rd November
quotequote all
I quite like the idea of owning one of these. What's not to like? V8 with a manual gearbox.

However, upon seeing one (Not a Bullitt) at my local dealership, they are a HUGE car. Definitely a GT car more than anything to be classed as sporty.

Love the idea of owning a Bullitt, but it wouldn't even fit in my garage.

Number9

71 posts

150 months

Monday 4th November
quotequote all
What are people’s thoughts about this...

https://www.whichcar.com.au/news/ford-mustang-r-sp...


A1VDY

921 posts

74 months

Monday 4th November
quotequote all
Yet another 'mean angry' face with the now generic Ford look.
A 911 would out drag and out drive this but doesn't have that depressing look..

SidewaysSi

5,984 posts

181 months

Monday 4th November
quotequote all
A1VDY said:
Yet another 'mean angry' face with the now generic Ford look.
A 911 would out drag and out drive this but doesn't have that depressing look..
Ah yes the new £50k 911. Have they announced it yet?