After 18 months, we no longer had a need to have the big hulking Excursion (COAL). It worked very well when we needed a tow vehicle, but without anything to tow it really just felt like excess. My partner James had not really been actively looking for a replacement vehicle. Our roommate was a Ford salesman, and he called us to come and look at a vehicle just received on trade. That night, James had signed the papers on a 2001 Bullitt Mustang.
I had been shopping for a Ford Mustang convertible to replace my 1992 Tempo GLS (COAL). Our roommate Andy worked at El Cajon Ford. He called and told us that he had just taken in a nice Mustang on trade that we had to come and look at it. Even though it was not a convertible, we obliged to come and see this special ‘Stang. He was right, it was a very nice Mustang. A dark green metallic paint job, black leather interior with more aggressive seats, and it appeared to be lowered. Andy cranked the car up, and the sound of that exhaust system was intoxicating. I knew we would be going home with it when I looked over and saw James grinning from ear to ear.
[The 2000 Bullitt Mustang concept.]
At the 2000 Los Angeles Auto Show, Ford showcased a one-off concept car inspired by the 1968 Mustang GT featured in the movie “Bullitt”. The “New Edge” style Mustang had been out for about a of year, and this concept was built to keep interest up in the Mustang until the next generation was scheduled to debut in 2005. Due to the overwhelming positive reaction, Ford introduced the limited edition Bullitt Mustang for 2001. It would be the first of a long line of limited edition Mustang models that Ford would produce, such as the Mach 1 Mustang for 2003 and 2004.
What makes the Bullitt so special? Compared to the standard Mustang GT, the exterior of the Bullitt had several enhancements to visually tie it to the 1968 Mustang featured in the movie. The pony corral on the grille was painted black, the C-pillars were reshaped, the side scoops were eliminated and smoothed over, and the side sills were smoothed as well. At the rear of the car, the rear spoiler was eliminated for a smooth look and an aluminum gas cap cover was installed. Wheels were 17” Bullitt-style aluminum rims and red painted brake calipers were visible behind them. On the inside, the stock seats were replaced with Cobra-style buckets but trimmed in a leather pattern similar to that of the 68 Mustang. Brushed aluminum shifter ball, Bullitt branded aluminum sill plates, and retro-font gauges rounded out the interior upgrades. The engine was upgraded with a new aluminum intake manifold, larger twin-bore throttle body, and different pulley ratios. The exhaust system was upgraded with larger diameter pipes, and polished rolled tips. Finally, the suspension was upgraded with different shocks and springs (lowering the car by approximately 1”), upgraded stabilizer bars, and frame rail connectors. There were 5,582 production Bullitt Mustangs. They were available in Black (1,818), True Blue (723), or an exclusive color Dark Highland Green (3,041) (Source).
[4.6L SOHC engine with special aluminum Bullitt intake.]
Our Bullitt Mustang was a Dark Highland Green car. When we bought it, there were a couple of modifications already done to the car. The exhaust system had been cut, and dumped right before the rear axle. The Bullitt tips were still there making it look stock, but it sounded a lot meaner. At the front, a Mach 1 chin spoiler had been added. This car was a rocket, and it handled very well. Magazine tests all claimed that this was the best handling Mustang to date, and I would definitely agree with them.
When we bought the car, it came with the personalized license plate 266. Every Bullitt Mustang came with two holographic stickers with their Bullitt serial number on it. One was located under the hood on the left shock tower, the other was located under the rear seat. Looking at the serialized holographic sticker under the hood of the car showed the numbers 0266, hence the plate. After buying the car, I went to register it with the International Mustang Bullitt Owners Club website. After registering #266, I was informed by members of the site that we may have purchased a fake car as #266 was already registered to a well known member. Panicking, I pulled the rear seat from the car to confirm. The sticker under the seat read 0265. Checking with the sticker under the hood, it also said 0265…but a slight smudge in printing made that 5 look like a 6.
Another addition the original owner did was put stickers on the rear view mirrors that said “Object In Mirror Are Losing”. The night we bought the car, we went out driving around. Within a few minutes, another New Edge Mustang came up next to us and paced us, revving the engine for about ¼ mile. When he downshifted to pull away, James did the same and wouldn’t back down. We started to pull away from the other Mustang and into triple digits when James saw the flashing lights from far behind. The cop pulled both cars over. As the cop is walking up to the car, our roommate says from the backseat “Don’t you wish the mirrors didn’t say what they say?” Through some combination of luck and smooth talking, we left with a ticket for 85 in a 65. Thankfully the car wasn’t impounded for street racing. My advice to everyone, take it to the track and keep it off the streets.
Driving the Bullitt was a blast. It was definitely a modern muscle car with all the right sounds and all the right moves. It cornered very well. Many magazines dismisses the Mustang as a relic with the live axle rear suspension. The basic platform dated back to the 1978 Fairmont. It didn’t matter, it was a great joy to drive. We weren’t driving a BMW or a Mercedes to compare, not that we wanted to at the time. It didn’t matter it wasn’t the most sophisticated, it brought a lot of smiles and joy for not a lot of dollars.
As I have come to expect from all the Fords that we have owned, the Bullitt was a rock solid reliable car. We never had any issues with it. Regular maintenance was performed by us and was super easy to do. Gas mileage averaged between 18 and 24 mpg, depending on how much fun you were having.
After about a year of ownership, another car opportunity dropped into James’ lap. He traded loud and aggressive for big and bling. When my dad heard that we were selling the Bullitt, he called us up and made an offer. While my dad owned the car, it did encounter a few mishaps. One day in his way home from work, he saw smoke from under the hood. The alternator had caught fire! He caught it soon enough and was able to douse the fire before significant damage was caused. The paint on the hood had blistered. About a year later he was rear ended by a young lady on the freeway who was more concerned with texting than driving. It wasn’t significant damage, but insurance fixed it all.
After my dad’s retirement from the Air Force and graduation from college, he decided it was time to get his dream car. Once he got his 2011 Challenger SRT 392, it was now my brother’s turn to own the Bullitt. It was sold to him, and now it is his fun and weekend car. It’s still in the family, and probably will be for a long time. If my brother ever decides to sell, I think I’ll probably snatch that one back up and keep it.