Ford Mus­tang Bul­litt

The Mus­tang Bul­litt pays homage to the iconic hero car … and will in­tro­duce the facelift to our mar­ket

Car (South Africa) - - CONTENTS -

THERE’S noth­ing quite like sidestep­ping the clutch on a big V8-pow­ered brute … es­pe­cially one wear­ing a Mus­tang badge. No flappy-pad­dle trans­mis­sions or tur­bocharged frip­pery here; just a thump­ing 5,0-litre lump un­der a vast bon­net, con­nected to the rear wheels via a six-speed man­ual trans­mis­sion.

Trac­tion con­trol off, clutch in, cue-ball shifter into first, revs up and go! Eight cylin­ders of fury bark from the open ex­hausts as torque is trans­ferred through the lim­ited-slip dif­fer­en­tial to the un­for­tu­nate strips of Miche­lin Pi­lot Sport rub­ber wrapped around the rear al­loys. The Mus­tang’s back-end wig­gles down the road, ne­ces­si­tat­ing slight steer­ing cor­rec­tions to keep it on the black stuff, while tyre smoke fills the rear-view mir­ror. An­ti­so­cial? Yes, but I’m sure Steve Mcqueen would’ve ap­proved.

When it comes to spe­cial oc­ca­sions, Ford has a knack for per­fect tim­ing. The very first Mus­tang pro­duced in 1964 was a Wim­ble­don White con­vert­ible pow­ered by a V8. In Au­gust 2018, the 10 mil­lionth ‘Stang rolled off the pro­duc­tion line in Michi­gan in the form of (you guessed it) an­other Wim­ble­don White con­vert­ible V8. It was, how­ever, still a sur­prise to learn on our ar­rival in France the movie Bul­litt was launched on the same day 50 years be­fore. Although Mcqueen is a leg­endary ac­tor, it’s the car-chase scene and par­tic­u­larly the 1968 green Mus­tang which cap­tured many a viewer’s imag­i­na­tion.

South Africans saw the re­turn of the iconic Pony Car to the lo­cal mar­ket in 2015 when Ford de­cided to pro­duce right-hand-drive ver­sions of the sixth-gen­er­a­tion model to not deprive the var­i­ous parts of the world driv­ing on the “wrong side” of the road. It’s still ter­rific news to learn South Africa will also re­ceive a lim­ited num­ber of Bul­litts in 2019. Pric­ing has not yet been an­nounced but con­vert­ing the cost from eu­ros to our lo­cal cur­rency (not the most ac­cu­rate method, it must be said) sug­gests this will be the first mil­lion-rand stock Ford Mus­tang to hit our shores.

So, for the ex­tra money, what do you gain over a cur­rent, stan­dard 5,0 GT Fast­back? Well, first up are the changes brought about by the Mus­tang facelift, which in­clude a 12-inch dig­i­tal in­fo­tain­ment screen, op­tional Mag-

ner­ide ad­justable dampers and a 10-speed au­to­matic trans­mis­sion (as found in the Ranger Rap­tor). The lat­ter gear­box is not avail­able in the Bul­litt, so buy­ers will have to make do with the stick shift, as the Amer­i­cans call it.

Mean­while, Bul­litt-speci c ex­te­rior ad­di­tions in­clude this Dark High­lands paint job, blacked-out wheels with red brake cal­lipers, a de­badged grille and the Bul­litt logo on the fuel- ller cap (in­ter­est­ingly, this de­sign be­longs to the Warner Bros en­ter­tain­ment com­pany). The end re­sult is a car so strik­ing passers-by can barely di­vert their gaze.

In­side, the theme con­tin­ues with Bul­litt sig­nage on the door­sills, black Re­caro seats fea­tur­ing green stitch­ing, an­other Bul­litt logo on the steer­ing wheel and that magni cent cue-ball gearshifter. The last-men­tioned item was ap­par­ently the most dif cult up­grade to source be­cause the rst sup­plier went bank­rupt and the sec­ond couldn’t get the colour right. Luck­ily, an en­gi­neer in Michi­gan knew a small ma­chine shop round the cor­ner ca­pa­ble of pro­duc­ing the prod­uct.

Un­der the bon­net is the fa­mil­iar, nat­u­rally as­pi­rated 5,0-litre V8 now fea­tur­ing an open air­box de­sign with a cone lter to in­crease the in­duc­tion noise (and re­duce the re­stric­tion to in­com­ing air) as well as an ac­tive ex­haust sys­tem com­plete with se­lectable sound lev­els (from “quiet” up to “race­track”). Peak out­puts are rated at 338 kw and 529 N.m.

So, how does the this Mus­tang drive? To ob­jec­tively re­port on this seems im­pos­si­ble, as even get­ting into the car and start­ing the en­gine is an emo­tive ex­pe­ri­ence. That clas­sic V8 whoop­whoop-whoop idle sends tin­gles down the spine. It’s dif cult to re­sist aim­ing quick prods at the throt­tle, as the ex­haust note in its un­re­stricted state is cine­matic.

That white shift ball ts per­fectly in your palm and the swap­ping ac­tion is short and me­chan­i­cal. It’s not quite at the pre­cise level of, say, the Honda Civic Type R, but cer­tainly meaty in its op­er­a­tion. Leav­ing the park­ing lot and lter­ing through traf c is a more re­laxed ex­pe­ri­ence than ex­pected, con­sid­er­ing the beast be­neath the bon­net.

Still, the car is mas­sive and care needs to be taken on nar­row streets. On the mo­tor­way, the Mus­tang shows its GT roots and is com­fort­able at speed, de­vour­ing mile af­ter mile with ease.

But this isn’t why we’re in France. Soon a turn-off ap­proaches, point­ing in the gen­eral di­rec­tion of the moun­tain­ous coun­try­side. With that fa­mous car-chase scene from the movie fresh in my mem­ory (I watched it the pre­vi­ous evening), it’s time for a spot of re-en­act­ment. Loud pedal to the floor in third, the Mus­tang builds speed in a pro­gres­sive man­ner, with the V8 chang­ing its sound­track from a growl to a full-on war cry at 7 000 r/min. Hard on the brakes for the hair­pin, I se­lect sec­ond gear (the auto-blip func­tion matches en­gine and trans­mis­sion speeds), turn in and let rip on exit. The al­ready wide grin on my face stretches even fur­ther, mak­ing me feel like a movie star. Am I go­ing too fast? Who cares when it feels this good?

A few hours later, in an at­tempt at ob­jec­tiv­ity, I con­clude the Bul­litt is no hard-core sportscar. It’s too big and heavy to play that role and, in a world with tur­bocharged ri­vals de­liv­er­ing more low-down torque, it just can­not com­pete on the race­track. The sus­pen­sion setup also favours com­fort over pre­ci­sion. In­deed, a well-driven Golf R will give this ana­logue beast more than a run for its money but there’s no deny­ing the Mus­tang driver will be the one hav­ing a more mem­o­rable ex­pe­ri­ence.

Where Ford seems to have missed an op­por­tu­nity, though, is with the gear­ing. It’s too tall to al­low the hooli­gan­ism the owner might crave at lower speeds; sec­ond gear is good for 100 km/h and third passes 160 km/h. Thus, ex­it­ing a slow bend in sec­ond, there’s lit­tle chance of slid­ing the rear just by plant­ing the ac­cel­er­a­tor be­cause there’s sim­ply not enough torque head­ing to the wheels at that point. Cor­ner harder at higher speeds and the ac­tion of the lim­ited-slip dif­fer­en­tial can be felt. But it re­quires a brave pi­lot to ex­tract the most from the Bul­litt at the limit.

That diff does, though, af­ford the owner the priv­i­lege of paint­ing ex­tended black 11s when the clutch is dumped in first gear; not some­thing Steve Mcqueen could man­age dur­ing the chase scene where only one wheel spins (thanks to the open rear dif­fer­en­tial in the orig­i­nal 1968 model).

Ul­ti­mately, the Bul­litt is rich in his­tory, with ar­guably enough emo­tional ap­peal to war­rant its el­e­vated price tag. Nei­ther the per­for­mance nor the in­te­rior qual­ity can com­pare with its Ger­man ri­vals but that was never the Blue Oval’s aim. In a world where cars have be­come so sim­i­lar – with hy­brid and elec­tric pow­er­trains plot­ting an im­mi­nent takeover – the Bul­litt of­fers some­thing money can­not buy: a true Amer­i­can mus­cle-car sen­sa­tion.

The 2019 model cap­tures the style of the orig­i­nal, down to the de­badged grille, wheel de­sign, func­tional in­te­rior and that cue­ball shifter.

clock­wise from top The view over the long bon­net feels re­ally spe­cial; driv­ing and ex­haust modes let you set up the ‘Stang to your pref­er­ence; Bul­litt logo on fuel- ller cap; one of the best man­ual shifters to hold in your palm.

top Note the open air-box de­sign with cone fil­ter. op­po­site With the Mus­tang’s trac­tion con­trol de­ac­ti­vated, light­ing up the rear rub­ber is an all-day dod­dle.

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