You Tell Us: How Do You Value the Bullitt Mustang, Something That’s One of One?

Photograph Courtesy Mecum Auctions

Story by David S. Wallens • Photography as Credited

Whether talking about a Capri or a Cobra, past sales usually hint towards tomorrow’s sale prices. But what about something that’s one of one? 

Two cars that will cross the Mecum block later this week fall into that category. We’ve seen the cars, discussed it with a few friends, and wonder what the rest of the class has to say on it. (This is where you comment at the end of this story.)

Photography Credit: David S. Wallens

Car No. 1 is the Bullitt Mustang, a machine that needs little introduction: Highland Green paint, deleted trim, running down the bad guys through the streets of San Francisco. 

The genuine hero car from the movie recently resurfaced with a Hollywood-worthy backstory: In 1974, Robert Kiernan simply purchased the Mustang after spotting the ad in Road & Track. His wife used it as a daily driver until a bum clutch sidelined the car in 1980. Since then, it’s been sitting in the garage–or, rather, garages as the car moved around as the family did.

In 2018, after Mr. Kiernan’s passing, his son rolled the car back into the public eye. It’s been shown around the block a few times, including Amelia Island. 

On Friday, January 10, Mecum will send the Mustang across the block. And the Mustang isn’t a creampuff. Yes, the car was “weathered” for the movie–as Mecum explains, the paint was scuffed down prior to filming–but now the car spots rust holes in the lower corners, bent sheet metal and a corroded rear bumper. The wheels have shed a lot of paint. Bondo? Perhaps some. 

Hagerty says that a 1968 Ford Mustang Fastback powered by the 390-cubic-inch V8 in fair condition is worth $39,200–and then add 10% for the four-speed. So in round numbers, let’s call it close to $45,000 for an example in No. 4 condition. (That same car in mint condition, the guide says, is worth a tick north of $85,000.)

But then there’s the McQueen bump–the X Factory here. In 2011, RM Sotheby’s got $1.375 million for the 1970 Porsche 911S that McQueen drove in the opening moments of “Le Mans.” This sale took place before the big Porsche bump, with the then-current going rate for a mint one being not quite $75,000.

A more recent sale: In 2015, McQueen’s 1976 Porsche 930–not a movie car but a personal car–brought in $1.95 million. At the time, a mint one was worth about $300,000 or so. And, to drive home the point, one more example: Despite little racing history, the Porsche 917K featured in “Le Mans” fetched $14 million in 2017–the most ever paid for a Porsche that we know about. 

So, back to the Mustang. At the end of the day, you can call it a ratty example of a common car. It’s beat yet can you really restore it?

Or you can say that it’s the star of one of Hollywood’s most iconic car chases ever. It’s a car that needs little introduction: It’s a Ford Mustang (big point No. 1) that most everyone knows (big point No. 2). 

What will it sell for? Mecum hasn’t printed a public estimate. Will it bring in $2 million? $3 million? 7 million? More? Place your bets.

Photography Courtesy Mecum Auctions

Photography Courtesy Mecum Auctions

Photography Courtesy Mecum Auctions




And then there’s the Challenger 2, another vehicle that’s hard to value. This is the actual car designed and driven by Mickey Thompson at Bonneville in 1968. Thompson reached 400 mph on the salt flats–close to the 406 he needed for the new record–but rain prevented any more runs. Ford pulled their support, and Thompson went onto other adventures. 

Photography Credit: David S. Wallens

 “Having already retired from racing,” the catalog explains, ”Mickey and his son Danny pulled the car from storage 20 years later with plans for another record attempt, but tragedy struck; on March 16, 1988, Mickey and his wife, Trudy, were murdered in front of their home in Bradbury, California, and their grieving son placed the car and the rest of his father’s racing memorabilia into storage for another two decades.”

In 2018, Danny Thompson and Challenger 2 finally returned to Bonneville. Horsepower had been bumped from 1800 to 5000, enough to send Danny Thompson and Challenger 2 down the salt flats at 448.757 mph, setting a new SCTA AA/Fuel Streamliner record. 

This one will cross the block on Saturday, January 11. The estimate is $900,000 to $1.5 million. 

Like the Bullitt Mustang, what’s it worth? It’s an important part of motorsports history that comes from an American legend. 

But, one the other hand, we’re talking about a one-off machine built for land speed racing–not Formula 1, NASCAR or Le Mans. And, at 32 feet long, where do you keep it? 

No matter the selling price, hopefully the new owners don’t lock them away.

Photography Credit: David S. Wallens

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AngryCorvair MegaDork
1/6/20 1:20 p.m.

i will be shocked if the Bullitt hammers at less than $500k.

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
1/6/20 1:32 p.m.
AngryCorvair said:

i will be shocked if the Bullitt hammers at less than $500k.

I'm thinking multi-millions. I want to say $3m-$7m, but I realize that's a wide range. 

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
1/6/20 1:56 p.m.

For those who want to roll their own: How to Bullitt Your Mustang (or Celica).

Jim Pettengill
Jim Pettengill HalfDork
1/6/20 1:58 p.m.

I've seen the Challenger 2 several times (Danny lives about 10 miles from me in a rural part of southwestern Colorado), and heard Danny's talks about the effort.  I know how much emotion and effort he has put into the lsr project, without a lot of sponsorship, and I hope he gets really big money for the car.  It deserves to be in a major museum.

I agree with David on the Mustang.

Don2001l New Reader
1/6/20 4:33 p.m.

There are two prices, what it’s worth, and what someone with Way too much money is willing to pay to have it !

Really now, no matter how cool the dead guy might have been, it really doesn’t change The Car... except I can say Steve McQueen drove it, and the kids will say “Who ?”

Will anything Dirty Harry  ( Clint Eastwood ) drove be worth base + 1 million ?

The second part that I find annoying is that none of our kids, or their kids will in any likelyhood be able to afford any Classic.

unless of course some old bugger dies off and only paupers show up at a no reserve auction...

I guess I’m also just cheap ;)

elwoodboll New Reader
1/7/20 12:20 p.m.

In reply to Don2001l :

What do you think Dirty Harry's 44 magnum might be worth?  That was his signature prop, just as the mustang was Lieutenant Frank Bullit's.

Don2001l New Reader
1/7/20 5:49 p.m.

In reply to elwoodboll :

That’s the question, how much more will someone pay because he held a prop like it... too much ;)

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
1/7/20 7:06 p.m.

Small data point that may or may not mean anything: A little more than two years ago, Paul Newman's Rolex fetched $17.8m. 

Don2001l New Reader
1/8/20 8:44 a.m.

In reply to David S. Wallens :

WoW - There is Someone with way tooooooo much money...

but it was a Classic Rolex ( Hey ! where is the Roll Eyes smiley ;) )

 the price of gold these days...  $2,200.oo, 

so did the watch weight 7,727 ounces ? (482 lbs )


rdstr New Reader
1/8/20 3:17 p.m.

Bullitt Mustang will bring big $$$ because of it's provenance. Incidently, I met Kierman in the fall of 74 right after he bought the car. He was selling a nice Alfa GT Jr that I was interested in buying, I liked the Alfa but was affraid of the small 1300 motor.

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
1/8/20 4:53 p.m.

Sort of related: The dune buggy from the Thomas Crown will soon be offered as well. 

Don2001l New Reader
1/8/20 6:02 p.m.

A normal example : Porsche 356A with a Bench seat - $125,000

If it would have been  “the Girl friends” Speedster he drove in the movie you add a zero !!! 

That pricing has no basis in reality ?

( Sorry, I’m rambling/ranting )



Don2001l New Reader
1/8/20 6:13 p.m.
David S. Wallens said:

Sort of related: The dune buggy from the Thomas Crown will soon be offered as well. 

Ok, now your just taunting me ;)

Googling - a Authentic Myers Manx Dune buggy - seller is asking $45,000 ( others listed from 5,000 to 15,000)

Put McQueen + Fay Dunaway in it and Add a million ! 

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
1/8/20 6:42 p.m.

Two words: supply and demand. 

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
1/8/20 7:02 p.m.

But, seriously, here's my take: Things are often cooler when there's a good story behind them. Here's my example. It doens't involve Steve McQueen, but it makes me happy.

My friend Craig professionally raced BMX for years. In fact, we met at a race a million years ago. During his career he rode for several top factory teams, including Mongoose. 

He had his own frame company for a few years, too, but I didn't have one back in the day. Well, a few years ago, he was cleaning up and offered some for sale--including the one that he raced, complete with battle scars and everything. Of course I bought it. 

And there's a slight chance that it's this very frame--he's not 100% sure:

I forget what I paid for the frame. The price was reasonable--very reasonable. Would I have paid a few bucks more because it's the one that he raced? Totally. Why? Cool story. And Craig. 

Don2001l New Reader
1/9/20 9:34 a.m.

While I agree, that having something with some history, or some unique creation certainly has more meaning that a new one off the shelf, but I can’t believe the premium that ends up being paid for some of those items during the bidding frenzy !

It just seems Crazy ( to me ).

There is no Magical power infused into the article during its use durring those N days where it was driven by “What’s his name “ ( speaking generically about any car used as a movie prop) , it has few differences between the one you could buy off the shelf or off the showroom floor, other than the fact that it’s use has been etched into the public conscientiousness because of the association we make between those  items ( thing + movie + person ).

I get into the same debate on the Miata forum when someone thinks a Wooden Nardi shift knob, Ebrake lever handle and Magenta sparkle metallic paint color is worth an extra $2,000

For some of those articles there is only  One, so if you Really want it and have Way too much money you can probably get it ;)

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
1/9/20 2:45 p.m.

In 24 hours, we'll know what the Bullitt Mustang is worth. Think it will top $10m? 

Don2001l New Reader
1/9/20 6:14 p.m.

Can we get a list of bidders and some background checks on them ?

4.5 Million ? ( little finger at the mouth corner ) [Autin Power’s référence ]

A  “practical” number $ 100,000 ( ok maybe $400,000 )

Don2001l New Reader
1/10/20 1:38 p.m.

Sold -3,400,000 ( I had to watch ) now that I’m invested ;)

Don2001l New Reader
1/10/20 2:09 p.m.

Now - if you want to go on to the second course - I’ll open a can of worms...

It’s sort of in rough shape, bumpers, cowl etc...

Do you restore it to the movie year like *New* or let it continue to rot away...

Its not my car - but I would not want it to degrade any further, so what to do:

Clear coat it ? ( jk )

Partial restoration ( like what you guys did to the GT 350 ) my choice.

Full restoration ! ( remove the tape from the speedo)


David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
1/10/20 3:14 p.m.

Yeah, sold right in the ballpark. So, yeah, restore it or keep it as is? 

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
1/10/20 4:29 p.m.
Don2001l New Reader
1/12/20 3:49 p.m.


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