It seemed like the whole world stopped for a moment when the 1968 Ford Mustang Bullitt driven by Steve McQueen himself crossed the auction block at Mecum’s 2020 Kissimmee event. Anticipation was high for the no-reserve car. Once the gavel fell it made history as the highest price paid at auction for a Ford Mustang at $3.4 million ($3.74 million after the buyer’s premium was assessed).
For some time the Highland Green Ford stayed hidden away, but the family who owned it put it on display at America’s Car Museum in Tacoma, Washington and took it to numerous shows after unveiling it in January 2018, giving the public an in-person view of the legend. That public life for the Mustang Bullitt seems in jeopardy as an anonymous buyer could squirrel it away.
For now, only one person knows the identity of the new owner: Frank Mecum. He reportedly was on the phone with the unidentified buyer during the auction. Speculation is running wild about why that would be. The new owner might be a celebrity like Jay Leno, who could have touched off a crazy bidding war had they been present. Or it could be someone who just doesn’t want to be in the limelight for a whole range of reasons.
The fact the new owner has remained anonymous, at least for now, is only adding fuel to the fires of controversy surrounding this car. Already, there were criticisms lobbed at the family who owned it for decades since they refused a purchase offer tendered by Steve McQueen himself. Others were upset it was hidden away for so long. Some are angry about its condition, while others love the thick patina on the body.
Many identify deeply with this car, which is far more than just another classic Ford. The 10-minute chase scene in Bullitt with Steve McQueen behind the wheel is iconic, making a deep impact on quite a few enthusiasts. It also is only the 21st car to be added to the National Historic Vehicle Register. To have the car used in the movie suddenly surface and then possibly be whisked away for who knows how long is too much for many.
Source: Detroit Free Press
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