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Car Tales: As Wild & Free As A Mustang

‘When I lived in Australia, my Greek auntie had a 1967 Ford Mustang coupe 2-door hardtop. Even better, she had a pink 1967 Ford Mustang coupe. Both my parents drove classic Volvos – a 121 Amazon for my dad, and an 1800S for my mom – and so I had some understanding at a young age of how great such cars could be.
‘But it was a combination of that 1967 Ford Mustang coupe, and my mom and dad’s Volvos that really clicked with me and probably helped inspire my present occupation. When my auntie would drive it around town in Australia, it got the kind of attention a pink Lamborghini would get in Beverly Hills. I really loved that car.

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‘To me the Ford Mustang defined a spirit of American freedom. Whoever dreamt up what that car should be called when it first arrived in dealerships in 1964 absolutely hit the bullseye. You immediately conjured up visions of wild horses roaming the American interior, free and untamed – a perfect image for a pretty perfect car.
‘The Ford Mustang was initially introduced on April 17, 1964, as a hardtop and convertible with the fastback version put on sale in August 1964. It was an immediate hit.
‘But the car’s image went up many degrees in October 1968 when the film Bullitt was released. It starred the great Steve McQueen as a San Francisco cop, the no-nonsense police lieutenant Frank Bullitt, in what was probably his most iconic role.
‘Bullitt of course features a now legendary car chase in which McQueen’s character drives a Highland Green Mustang GT Fastback in a chase with a pair of bad guys in a black 1968 Dodge Charger. At getting on for ten minutes long, the sequence reliably stands up as the greatest car chase ever filmed, a white-knuckle ride through San Francisco’s hilly terrain, the Mustang GT Fastback getting airborne a few times as it speeds through the streets. Although the film is blessed with a fabulous quasi-jazz score by Lalo Schifrin, the music vanishes during the chase, in favor of screeching tires and roaring engines. Music to my ears, anyway.
‘I would love to see Ford’s sales figures for the Mustang in the months immediately following the release of Bullitt. You can bet they soared upwards.
‘Amazingly, the Ford Mustang GT Fastback driven by McQueen in the film is still intact. And in January last year it sold to an unknown buyer for $3.4 million at auction in Florida, the highest price ever paid for a Ford Mustang at auction. It took only a minute of bidding to realise that amount.
‘When filming on Bullitt had concluded, the car was bought by a Warner Brothers employee, who then sold it to a New Jersey police detective. The detective sold the Mustang in 1974 for $6,000 to Robert Kiernan of Madison, New Jersey, who passed away in 2014, still the owner of the car.
‘Steve McQueen himself had been keen to acquire the iconic Mustang GT Fastback, even writing to Robert Kiernan in 1977: ‘I would like to appeal to you to get back my ‘68 Mustang. I would like very much to keep it in the family, in its original condition as it was used in the film, rather than have it restored; which is simply personal with me.’ This never happened, however.
‘Writing this, I am reminded of someone who appears to have once attempted to emulate Steve McQueen’s motoring adventures in Bullitt.
‘In 1988 Joe Strummer, the former singer with the Clash, was recording in Los Angeles. To help get himself into character, he had rented a vintage Mustang.
‘Once, leaving the Sunset studio in the Mustang he jumped a red light and was immediately signalled to stop by a police car. Instead he decided to lead the cops on a chase in the Ford Mustang into the Hollywood Hills. ‘We made it to the top of the mountain, but the cop car was already up there,’ said his friend, the artist Josh Cheuse. ‘Joe Strummer charmed them. The cop said something like, ‘Well, I know you got a nice little ride there.’ That was a time in LA when you could still charm the police.’
‘Readers: don’t try that yourself! Unless maybe you have a pink one…
-Alex Manos, Owner

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