King of cool or cyn­i­cal cash-in by Ford?

The Mus­tang ‘Bul­litt’ is linked to the sem­i­nal Steve McQueen film of 50 years ago. We should savour its like while we can, says Alex Rob­bins

The Daily Telegraph - Saturday - - OPEN ROAD -

here is some­thing won­der­fully silly about the idea of pootling around Bri­tain in a Ford Mus­tang, the mod­ern epit­ome of an Amer­i­can mus­cle car. Plonk­ing one of the lat­est mod­els in the mid­dle of a tweedy vil­lage is a lit­tle like invit­ing Alice Cooper to a sup­per club.

So quite how it will feel do­ing so in the new Ford Mus­tang Bul­litt is any­one’s guess. This homage to the crime thriller that put dark green Mus­tangs on the map has been con­ceived to cel­e­brate the 50th an­niver­sary of the film Bul­litt, which starred Steve McQueen as the San Fran­cisco Po­lice De­part­ment’s Lieu­tenant Frank Bul­litt and was re­leased in the US on Oc­to­ber 17, 1968.

Oh, and there’s the small mat­ter of it con­tain­ing one of the most revered car chases in cin­e­matic his­tory, al­most 11 min­utes of un­re­lent­ing ac­tion through the streets and hills of San Fran­cisco in an orig­i­nal Six­ties Mus­tang.

Ford has pro­duced Bul­litt spe­cial edi­tions of its Mus­tangs be­fore, in

2001 and again in 2008. This one is the first to be of­fi­cially im­ported to the

UK, how­ever – although if you want one, you’ll have to hold fire, as our

2018 al­lo­ca­tion has al­ready sold out.

As the Mus­tang’s Amer­i­can en­gi­neer­ing man­ager, Tom Barnes, puts it: “It’s not like it’s got a jil­lion things on it, but you walk up to it and say ‘Oh, that’s cool’.” In other words, while this isn’t a story of “lov­able but slightly dopey Mus­tang be­comes su­per-sharp sports car”, it is far more than just a lick of paint and a clever mar­ket­ing tie-up.

There’s a new in­let man­i­fold and in­duc­tion sys­tem which help to boost



£2,070 first year, £450 per year for next five years, then £140

More than just a cyn­i­cal mar­ket­ing ex­er­cise, the Mus­tang Bul­litt is ev­ery bit the mod­ern mus­cle car it sets out to be, and quite a bit more be­sides. It’s cer­tainly flawed – but it’s hard not to be se­duced by its char­ac­ter, play­ful­ness and sheer sense of oc­ca­sion.


the stan­dard 5.0-litre V8 en­gine’s power by 10bhp to 454bhp, as well as a sharp­ened chas­sis and sub­tle tweaks to the elec­tron­ics.

In­side, you get Re­caro leather seats and a Bang & Olufsen sound sys­tem. Then there’s Dark High­land Green paint, which apes that of McQueen’s Mus­tang in the film (black is a no-cost op­tion if you don’t fancy it, how­ever), with match­ing green ac­cents through­out the in­te­rior, in­clud­ing on the LCD di­als; a cue-ball gear­knob; a mur­der­ous blacked-out grille and men­ac­ing 19in black al­loy wheels.

Barnes is right, though; as you ap­proach the Bul­litt, it’s im­pos­si­ble to avoid the feel­ing that you’re about to have a neat time, and twist­ing the key does noth­ing to dis­pel that. Few cars rum­ble and vi­brate with such pur­pose. It’s a big old thing, though; you can’t re­ally tell where the dropped nose

(that was part of the re­cent facelift) ends, while the wide hips seem con­stantly about to graze walls at the edge of the road.

In­side, the Bul­litt’s changes cer­tainly lift the in­te­rior, although in com­mon with the stan­dard car there are ar­eas where the car’s cut-price na­ture shows; es­pe­cially in the aw­ful, scratchy plas­tics that line the door


pan­els and fill in the space be­tween the glove­box and the dash­board top.

But few mus­cle cars were ever con­cerned with build qual­ity, and mus­cle is what the Bul­litt is all about. Mind you, the changes to the V8 have not turned it into a torquey mon­ster; as with the stan­dard car, ac­cel­er­a­tion is pro­gres­sive rather than thun­der­ous, build­ing your an­tic­i­pa­tion of the top third of the rev range where the Mus­tang re­ally starts to fly. Hap­pily there’s plenty of woofling and war­bling from the en­gine to en­ter­tain you un­til you get there, and when you do, you’re re­warded with an ex­ul­tant, ul­u­lat­ing bel­low and lots of crack­les on the over-run.

Mus­cle fac­tors into the driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, too – you’ll need to use some, whether it’s to get the nose turned in us­ing the meaty steer­ing, or to pound the gear lever through the gate. In tighter cor­ners, it’s quite hard work, es­pe­cially with its mass shift­ing around from side to side – as it did even with our test car’s op­tional mag­netic sus­pen­sion firmed up.

But as the road grows wider and the cor­ners faster, the Bul­litt starts to flow. The weight trans­fer can still be a lit­tle off-putting – turn in quickly and you feel the out­side front dip, giv­ing you the im­pres­sion it’s about to break trac­tion. But it doesn’t, so push through that ini­tial un­cer­tainty and your con­fi­dence grows. Grab a bit more lock and feel the nose re­spond sur­pris­ingly sweetly, duck­ing into the cor­ner rather than push­ing wide.

Add power and the weight shifts to the back of the car, but again there’s more grip than you ini­tially think, so when you squeeze the throt­tle the car hooks up and blasts you out of the

GET A GRIP You’ll need to ap­ply your own mus­cle to this brawny, all-Amer­i­can hero; the con­trols are some­what heavy

STAR QUAL­ITY The Mus­tang Bul­litt cer­tainly turns heads; Steve McQueen in the 1968 crime thrillerbelow

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