Muscle Mustangs & Fast Fords
2001 Mustang Bullitt GT
Is this special edition Mustang a street brawler or just Hollywood hype?
When it comes to the Bullitt Mustang GT, we have to admit we at Muscle Mustangs feel a little silly. When we first learned the particulars of this car--lowered suspension, Cobra front brakes, Ford Racing intake, underdrive pulleys, etc., we figured it was a can't-miss, grand slam home run.Then we saw it in person and went nuts. We admit, we praised the heck out of it on these pages before we ever so much as sat in one. Its styling was improved, the interior was a delightful throwback and its performance and handling promised to be the best ever for a GT.
And then reality reared its ugly head. When the news broke that the Bullitt's modified 4.6 SOHC V8 made a scant five horsepower more than stock and three--count 'em three--more lbs.-ft. of torque, we felt duped. Based on your letters and emails, so did many of you. The overriding question you asked was, "Is the Bullitt still worth the extra money?"
If you are going to base your buying decision solely on quarter-mile times, DynoJet performance or factory ratings, we'd say no. But there is a lot more to the Bullitt than this. A wise old man once told us, you cannot judge a performance car solely on the numbers and in this case he was correct. You still get an awful lot for your $3,695. It's just so disappointing that while Chevy is building (at least for the next year) 12-second Camaros (see sidebar), Ford's engine engineers are apparently working on something else.
On paper, the Bullitt engine puts out more power per cubic inch (.943 vs. .939) than the SS version, but we don't race on paper do we? In the real world the Camaro Z/28 and SS put out far in excess of their 310 (Z/28) and 325 (SS) rated horsepower; the Chevy mill is also 65 cubic inches larger, which obviously puts the Bullitt and the lesser 260-horse GT at an extreme disadvantage. This begs more inquiries: Can't Ford do any better with the mod motor, short of adding a supercharger to it? Is this all there is? Do the guys from Dearborn need to go shopping for leftover LS1s from the General when the F-body twins cease to exist so the Mustang can have some oats?
Before you get out your tar and feathers, know this: Except for balls-to-the-wall acceleration, the Bullitt is by far the best GT ever. The handling is flatter, the styling better and the braking shorter than any non-Cobra that's come before it. The interior is totally cool and Team Mustang obviously sweat the details with the aluminum trim, red rotors, etc. It's just disheartening when Ford adds the Ford Racing Parts aluminum intake, underdrive pulleys, a freer-flowing exhaust (20 percent better than the standard GT) and a bigger throttle body (twin 57mm vs. 65) and comes up with five horsepower. It seems even worse when you realize that this year's 2-valve 4.6 has nearly a half-point more compression than the 2000, 9.4:1 vs. 9.0:1.
Enough of this--what did why like about the car? Just about everything. Let's start with the simplest item, the color. Dark Highland Green is deep with plenty of metallic in it, not to mention true to the spirit of the '68 color of the movie car. It's just darn pretty. Those with black and blue Bullitts certainly will disagree, but we'd have been perfectly content if Dark Highland Green was the only hue available.
The redesign of the C-scoop area ahead of the rear wheels is a huge improvement over the base GT as well. On the Bullitt, the non-functional scoop is deleted, supplanted by a piece of molding that again hearkens back to the '68 Stang. It does a very nice job of smoothing out this area of the body.
The faux hood scoop, which comes on all GTs, received mixed reviews from our staff. Tech editor Evan Smith loved it because it made him feel like he was driving an old musclecar, others felt it looked out of place and tacked on to an otherwise clean design. The Torq-Thrust D-inspired 17-inch wheels drew rave reviews all around. Like the originals, they'll probably never go out of style and they fit the Mustang's chiseled body perfectly. The aluminum gas filler door adds some bright work to the rear, while the blacked-out corral around the nose's running horse emblem takes it away. The only external Bullitt insignia is on the decklid, to the right of the left taillight.
Out of the road, the Bullitt gets more than its share of approving glances. Production cars were just hitting the streets when we got our tester and everyone seemed to know what it was.
One other area where Team Mustang knocked one out of the park is the interior. The seats are very similar to those used in the Cobra, except they are entirely made of leather (no cloth inserts) and they lack the serpentine logo. The covers are perforated, have '60-style pleats and they do a better than average job of holding you in place. They're also a heckuva of lot more comfortable than the regular GT chairs. The '67-68 Mustang-inspired tach and speedo look the part as well, although they'd be much easier to read if they were a tad larger or didn't have both English and metric readouts. As they sit, they are sometimes too busy to read at a glance.
The aluminum trim around the shift boot got a thumbs up and the aluminum shift knob got a thumbs down (too small, too hot on summer days). On the other hand, the aluminum pedal covers (repositioned for better heel-and-toe driving) got a pair of thumbs up, as did the metal door sill plates.
Driving the Bullitt is what makes the car special, though. The revalved Tokico shocks, struts and Tokico springs, give the car not only an improved ride height, but a crispness that's missing from the GT. The thicker front sway bar and thinner rear bar might have been used to build in more push (for safety) for the anticipated extra horsepower that never quite materialized. We didn't have the car long enough to wring it out fully, and though the ride is definitely firmer than the GT, it isn't so to the point of annoyance. It actually feels like the GT should have years ago.
Another area addressed on the Bullitt that is much improved is the clutch. A new 11-inch flywheel and clutch assembly are utilized. It is far lighter than stock, making power shifting easier and just sitting in traffic far less stressful. As a bonus, it has an increased torque capacity.
At the track, Smith powershifted his way to a slew of 13.90s. The best he could do during our humid summer test session was 13.91 at 98.5 mph. The 60-ft. times on stock tires were consistent 2.09s--not bad considering the weather. Originally we blamed these times on the heat and excess weight.
According to the scale at Raceway Park, the car weighed 3900 lbs. We found this inconceivable, but when Smith weighed himself alone the scale was accurate. The next time we went to the track, though, we realized that the scale was off when a test car weighed less with the driver in it than without.
We're guessing that in reality the Bullitt weighs in at about 3600 with driver. We also know of folks who are going 13.7s with their Bullitts on production Goodyears in decent air so it's not like the car is slow.
On the DynoJet at Crazy Horse Racing in Clark, N.J., the Bullitt spun the rollers to 236.8 horsepower and 279.8 lbs.-ft. of torque. The torque curve is plenty flat and you can feel the power on the street. But compare the Bullitt's dyno sheet to that of a regular 2001 GT tested at Crazy Horse (also shown). That one was stock except for an aftermarket cat-back exhaust system. The GT made more power and torque. Ugh.
So, when all is said and done, is the Bullitt worth the kind of dough that brings its MSRP to $27,380? Even with its shortcomings, we say yes. As Art Hyde, head of Team Mustang told us, "There's a lot of love in this car."
The men and women behind it at Ford put in a lot of effort creating a truly desirable special edition. Unlike some previous attempts that were mostly tape stripes and blackout trim, this limited edition Mustang had some genuine engineering and thought put in it. Too bad the actions under the hood didn't come off as well as the rest of it.
To put it in baseball terms, we thought the Bullitt would be a game-winning, grand slam home run. What we got was more an RBI double. It's plenty desirable, but there is more work to be done.
Hopefully, the Mach 1 will get the green light from Ford and will drive in the winning runs.