… Like Steve McQueen
All I need’s a fast machine
And I’m gonna make it all right …
Four decades after hitting the big screen and redefining the on-screen car chase, the Ford Mustang Bullitt returns to the streets in 2008, blending the best Mustang ever with the latest Ford Racing technology. Not only did we spend a week with the Bullitt, but we also got our hands on the Shelby GT500 Mustang, an icon of true American musclecar partnered with a legendary American racing spirit.
The first time I slid behind the wheel of the new Shelby GT500 Mustang, my muscles tensed and my mind went into overdrive. Just how much am I going to have to tame this beast, I wondered? How much is it going to misbehave?
Despite the hype that led up to my taking the keys to one of the most powerful production Mustangs ever built, I found the GT500 to be quite sedate and understated rather than ostentatious or obnoxious.
Performance numbers released in the glossy car magazines have not spoken extremely highly of this Shelby project, but climb behind the wheel and your personal experiences will beg to differ.
There is no extreme blast of low-end power as in the Corvette Z06 or Dodge Viper, but the GT500 comes alive when pushed into the powerband and the underhood blower starts to sing its mezzo-soprano aria.
Engineers over at Ford’s Special Vehicle Team (SVT) have slapped a roots-type Eaton supercharger on top of a performance version 5.4-liter V-8 and backed it up with a slick six-speed manual gearbox with one of the best shifters on the market. Slipping between the gears is a breeze in the GT500, not a chore as in some performance vehicles we have driven – clutch action included.
One interesting note: Ford decorates this latest GT500 with the Cobra emblem but nowhere in the nomenclature or badging do they use the word “Cobra” as on SVT Mustangs of the ’90s. I guess that’s what separates the Cobras of the last decade with the Shelbys of this one.
The GT500 is outfitted with a set of Brembo performance brakes (vented but not drilled) and rides on a set of unique 18-inch machined aluminum wheels. Our tester was dressed in vista blue metallic body paint with white Le Mans top stripes. Even the rear spoiler speaks to Shelby Mustang heritage.
Inside does not differ greatly from that of a Mustang GT save for the Cobra – sorry, Shelby GT500 snake – logos embroidered into the sport bucket seat headrests.
Traction control and ABS is standard on the GT500 as are the side impact airbags and, thankfully, air conditioning.
We also enjoyed the addition of the SIRIUS Satellite radio feature on our Shaker 500 audio system.
And, of course, every one on the road thinks they need to attempt to take on the new GT500. Step back folks and get a clue. Your little Grand Prix GTP is no match for this beast. All you do is make yourself look foolish. At least the guy in the fake SVT Cobra Mustang had the decency to be content enough to roll down his window and listen to the exhaust rumble from our Shelby.
Pricing begins at $41,930 but Uncle Sam tacks on a $1,300 gas guzzler tax (even though the car is rated at 14/20 mpg). Our sticker totalled up to $47,955 thanks to such extras as SIRIUS Satellite radio, DVD-based navigation system, ambient lighting package and the premium GT500 trim. A convertible version Shelby GT500 is also available but lacks the Le Mans striping, keeping to the tradition that the first GT500 convertible did not offer it either.
The Shelby GT500 finally puts mainstream Ford fans in the 500hp driver’s seat. Now get off the bench and into the game.
Ford Mustang Bullitt
The launch of the limited edition 2008 Mustang Bullitt coincides with the 40th anniversary of the release of the Warner Bros. Pictures’ film that gave the original car its name. In the movie, legendary actor Steve McQueen drove a Dark Highland Green 1968 Mustang GT that gained cult status among Mustang enthusiasts, thanks to a seven-minute car chase scene.
This modern classic delivers a balance of power and performance, thanks to special chassis and suspension tweaks as well as the 315 horsepower and 325 pound-feet of torque that Bullitt delivers through its 4.6-liter V-8 engine.
“The 2008 Mustang Bullitt embodies the true spirit of the 1968 movie car,” said Derrick Kuzak, group vice president, Global Product Development. “Like the original Bullitt, this car dials the driving dynamics up a notch for Mustang enthusiasts who love the performance, handling and the sweet sound of Ford power that only Mustang can deliver.”
Following are highlights and specifications for the 2008 Mustang Bullitt:
• Highland Green (unique to Bullitt) or Black exterior paint,
• Modified 18-inch micro machined Euro-flange Bullitt wheels and unique satin finish; c/o tri-bar pony wheel cap,
• Dark gray painted calipers,
• Modified badging with unique satin finish and Bullitt nomenclature, • Unique 3.5-inch stainless steel packed exhaust tips.
• Unique aluminum I/P finish panels with unique gunmetal engine turn pattern,
• Aluminum accents – c/o IUP door handles and premier trim pedal covers and shifter trim ring,
• Aluminum shifter ball unique to Bullitt,
• Revised cluster with gunsight graphics and unique font,
• Shelby GT500-style sport front seats and Shelby GT500-style steering wheel with Bullitt logo,
• Unique aluminum sill plate (scuff plate) with Bullitt logo,
• Serialization plate on strut tower brace.
• 4.6-liter, 3-valve SOHC V-8,
• Tremec TR-3650 5-speed manual transmission,
• Signature Bullitt exhaust sound,
• New open-element cold air induction system and hood blanket with AIS seal,
• High performance calibration,
• Dual knock strategy enabling the vehicle to run on either regular unleaded or premium (for improved performance),
• Crisper throttle response,
• Revised cam timing at peak power,
• Redline increased by 250 RPM to 6,500 RPM,
• 3.73:1 axle ratio.
• New unique strut tower brace,
• New unique shock and strut tuning,
• Rear spring change that lowers vehicle ride height by about 6 mm,
• Carbon metallic front brake pads.
This latest Bullitt from Ford is a surefire hit with Mustang aficionados as well as those old-school action movie buffs out there. It is a blast to drive, but I would wish for another gear in the tranny along with a more substantial boost in engine output.
While some may not like the stripped-down packaging of the new Bullitt, others find it the perfect touch. I found myself answering a lot of “why this” and “why that” questions during my week with the new pony car, with the most common answer being that this is Ford’s attempt at staying as true to the original vision as possible.
Pricing for our tester Bullitt was $34,705. EPA ratings are 15 mpg city and 23 mpg highway.
The 2008 Ford Mustang Bullitt edition is not the “perfect pony car,” but it is the modern-day interpretation of the original and will provide a healthy dose of nostalgia and enthusiasm during your time spent behind the wheel.
And Ford will only build 7,700 of them so you had better move faster than a speeding “Bullitt” if you want one.