Posted by: Jerry Garrett | January 9, 2020

Were There THREE Bullitt Mustangs? THREE Dodge Chargers?

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Together Forever (Warner Bros.)

HOLLYWOOD

In the celebrated 10-minute car chase in the 1968 movie, “Bullitt”, it has been generally accepted that two Ford Mustang fastbacks and two Dodge Charger R/Ts were used – and used up – in the filming.Screen Shot 2020-01-09 at 3.33.30 PM

In the 50 years since, car collectors and the legions of fans of the cult-fave movie, and its star Steve McQueen, have been trying to figure out what happened to those cars. Even McQueen himself tried to track down one of the Mustangs, in the years prior to his death from mesothelioma-caused lung cancer in 1980.

Initially, it seemed as though the cars were junked. But information has come out in recent years that at least a couple may still be around. And it has also come out that more of them once existed than previously known.

In fact, a stuntman who worked on the movie, Loren Janes, said in a 2011 interview that there were originally three Mustangs and three Chargers purchased for the filming of the legendary chase.

“We had three identical green 1968 Ford Mustang fastbacks and three black Dodge Chargers in the movie,” Janes told Marc Myers, a Wall Street Journal reporter. “Many writers have said two, but there were three of each. We needed the extra cars in case one was damaged. The movie’s shooting schedule can’t be slowed for dents and things like that.”

Janes, the last living Bullitt stuntman, died in 2017 at age 85. He told Myers that he, McQueen and Bud Ekins, who died in 2007, took turns driving the Mustangs (Ekins also had duty crashing a motorcycle in the sequence); Bill Hickman, who passed in 1986, drove the Chargers.

“Fortunately we only had to use a second Mustang once when the first Mustang had to go in to be fixed up,” Janes recalled.

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Loren Janes at the wheel of Bullitt No. 2

So, that means there was a third Mustang that was never used?

Janes said that was his understanding. “Ford Motor Company had supplied them,” he said. “There were three of them. The second one didn’t get wrecked, so the third one didn’t have to be used.”

McQueen’s company, Solar Productions, sold two of the Mustangs, according to recollections of others and paperwork that has survived. But there is no other information on a third Mustang.

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Ekins slides motorcycle past Hickman (Charger) & Janes

A heavily damaged Mustang turned up, incredibly, in a Mexican junkyard a few years ago. It was verified by its serial number on Solar paperwork. Someone acquired it who promised to restore it.

The best-known vehicle in the chase sequence was the so-called “hero car” driven by McQueen. It had largely disappeared until recently, when a Kentucky horse farmer revealed he had it – having inherited it from his father, who had acquired it (via a Road & Track magazine classified ad) in 1974.

That’s the Bullitt Mustang auctioned by Mecum on Jan. 10.

What about the Chargers? Janes believed two of the Chargers were junked; there’s no doubt at least one of them was: It was intentionally blown up in a gas station at the end of the chase sequence.

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Here’s hoping they took the CDW option.

In 2013, a 1968 Dodge Charger R/T 440, purported to be one of those used in the movie, turned up on the Bring-A-Trailer online auction site (asking price: $1 million). The seller, Arnold Welch, claimed he found it in rough condition in Arizona about a decade ago. It was partially authenticated by production photos that showed cameras had been mounted in spots that this Charger had holes, or repaired holes, under the carpets, in door panels, and in the trunk.

It is harder to determine the provenance of the Chargers, because it doesn’t seem like anyone kept track of their vehicle identification numbers (VINs), as had been done with two of the Mustangs.

Anecdotally, the real Bullitt Chargers all may have been purchased by Hickman from a Dodge dealer in Glendale, California. One was blue (blown up in the gas station), another was yellow; both were re-painted black. Was the mysterious third one black already? Not sure.

The yellow Charger apparently was repainted yellow; it reportedly ended up going back to the dealership it originally came from, and was sold to an unsuspecting customer. That’s the car – painted a third time in gold – that supposedly ended up in Arizona.

The unrestored Mustang hero car and the restored Arizona Charger were invited to appear together at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in 2018, which turned out to be a rather cool photo op, even if the cars were never driven as fast as they had been in the film.

So, that leaves the car collecting community to wonder: Is there another “Bullitt” Mustang somewhere out there? If there is, it might be difficult to prove its authenticity; no one seems to have a record of its serial number.

Jerry Garrett

January 9, 2020

 

 

 

 

 


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