COAL Update: 2001 Ford Mustang Bullitt – A Family Affair

When I last wrote about this 2001 Ford Mustang Bullitt (COAL here), I closed out that post with the following comment:

“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.”

Last July my husband and I flew to Louisiana to attend my brother’s wedding.  While we were there for the visit; beer was flowing, discussions were had, a figure was agreed to and hands were shook.   The Bullitt has returned home and I’ve made good on that promise from a few years ago.

Arrival in San Diego, 3 years after saying I told CC I would buy it back.

The Bullitt Mustang was a limited production car for the 2001 model year.  (Bullitt edition Mustangs have been created for each generation since, but this one was the first.  The S197 generation saw a Bullitt in 2008 and 2009.  The current S500 generation Bullitt is available in 2019 and 2020.)  It was based upon the GT Premium coupe and was an homage to the 1968 Mustang GT driven by Lt. Frank Bullitt in the movie “Bullitt”.  Changes to the GT to create the Bullitt include different aluminum intake and twin bore throttle body (HP bumped from 260 to 265), larger dual exhaust, lowered suspension, Cobra brakes, new 17″ “Bullitt” wheels, 3.73 rear gear, side scoop deletes, different rocker panels, restyled quarter windows and trim, no spoiler, Cobra bucket seats trimmed with a retro leather pattern, and retro font gauges.  Three colors were available; Dark Highland Green (exclusive to the Bullitt), Black, and True Blue.

As delivered, after a much needed bath.

When it came time for us to sell the Bullitt, we ended up selling it to my dad.  He flew out and drove it back to Albuquerque, NM.  There it was pushed into service as his daily driver.  Pop really loved having the Bullitt just as much as we did.  Only a couple of notable things happened to the Bullitt while he owned it.  On his way home from work one day, he saw smoke coming from under the hood of the car.  He quickly pulled over and popped the hood, to find that the alternator had caught fire!!  He was able to quickly put it out without any damage other than paint on the hood had started to bubble a little bit.  A couple of years later, he was rear ended by a gal who was more concerned with responding to a text message than to paying attention to the road.  The damage was minor, but extensive enough that the rear half of the car was repainted.  This included the replacement bumper cover, trunk lid and rear fenders.

Battle scars as delivered.

After about 6 years, my dad retired from the Air Force and decided it was time to buy his dream car.  In came a 2012 Dodge Challenger SRT392 and out went the Bullitt.  This time it was my younger brother’s turn to own the Bullitt.  He flew out to my parents and drove the car to his home in Louisiana.  He split time between the Bullitt and his truck.  While in Louisiana, a few more mishaps happened to it.  Cosmetically, my brother’s wife (now ex-wife) backed her car into the left front fender and damaged it.  It was straightened out pretty good, but just repainted with some rattle can gloss black.  On the other side of the car, a piece of debris hit the side which tore off the right side scoop delete and scraped the rear wheel well.  Not too long ago, while the car was sitting in the driveway, high winds knocked over a basket ball hoop that landed directly on the hood and scratched the hood scoop and the hood.

Interior out for a good deep clean.

On the mechanical side, one of the head gaskets failed.  The car was parked for a little while until my dad came out for a visit and helped my brother repair it.  A couple of years after that, the car developed a weird miss.  Once the car was warmed up, it would start sputtering and missing starting in 3rd gear above about 2500 rpm.  Again the car sat for a little bit.  Finally it was taken to a shop to diagnose and repair.  The diagnosis was that the “cats were clogged”, so the repair was to gut the catalytic converters and should be good (Louisiana isn’t as strict on emissions laws as other states).  That cured it for a little while, but then it returned.  At that point, my brother gave up for a while and parked the car again.  He would start it every weekend or so, drive it around the block to keep things lubricated, but it hadn’t really been actively driven in about a year.

Engine bearing the scars of fire and the fire extinguisher.

I had been itching for a new project car, something that I could fix up and restore.  I also wanted to return back to autocross racing.  I really enjoyed that with my Magnum SRT8.  However, the Magnum is my daily driver and it’s a little too fat to be hustling around tighter autocross courses.  When we went to Louisiana for my brother’s wedding last July, we got to see the Bullitt sitting in his driveway.  He mentioned that he was thinking about getting rid of it so he could focus on his new family and not worry about it.  The gears in my head started turning.  The Bullitt was the perfect candidate for what I wanted to do.  It’s a car we know almost the full history on.  It would be fun to restore the Bullitt as well as take it to on the autocross track.  The deal was done and we arranged for the car to be shipped to us.  It arrived in San Diego October of 2019, almost 3 years to the day after posting my COAL about buying it back if the opportunity arose.

Junkyard headlights look way better than the aftermarket ones that were on it.

I’ve done a just a few minor things since the car has arrived.  I replaced the aftermarket headlights with some stock units from the junkyard, after a good polish.  I’ve replaced a broken wheel stud.  The interior was pulled out and got a deep cleaning.  The failed trunk struts were replaced.  The plans are to get the car drive-able and registered. I am unable to register it in California right now without passing a smog check.  Right now, I can’t pass a smog check until the gutted catalytic converters are replaced.  I’ve already sourced a 50-state legal replacement catalytic X-pipe, the only one available on the aftermarket.  Once it’s on the road, I will then go after and fix the miss, refresh the suspension, new clutch, and some 18″ wheels and tires.

Rendering I commissioned for the final look.

Once things are mechanically sorted out, it will be time to hit the autocross.  While doing autocross, I will also start on the cosmetic restoration.  I want to install ’03/’04 Cobra bumpers front and rear, recover the seats inside, and a full repaint in Dark Highland Green.  The mods are subtle, and will not take away from the Bullitt aspect of the car.  Things have been slow going since it’s been back, especially with the impacts from the coronavirus lockdowns. Time to get restoring.  If you want to follow along, feel free to follow my Instagram page specifically for the Bullitt @bullitt_0265.