Donald Farr
Former Editor, Mustang Monthly
January 1, 2009
Photos By: Jim Smart, Matt Stone, Gateway Classic Mustang

Chad McQueen was only 7 years old when his father, actor Steve McQueen, piloted a Highland Green '68 Mustang fastback over the hilly streets of San Francisco during the filming of the '68 movie classic, Bullitt. Forty years later, Chad recalls being on location in San Francisco with his father. The green Mustang made a lasting impression.

"It was such a heavy impact for a kid," Chad told us. "It was loud and I even remember the smells. That's why I've done nothing but mess with cars my whole life."

YearOne's Phil Brewer rendered drawings for the buildup, making notes for the crew to follow.

With his McQueen automotive genes fueled by the vision of a hot '68 Mustang being chased by an equally hot Dodge Charger, Chad grew up to be like his father, describing himself as either an actor who races or a racer who acts. Chad has starred in and produced over two dozen movies, both big-screen and TV. He's best known for his role as Dutch in The Karate Kid and The Karate Kid II. On the track, he's raced Baja, won an SCCA national championship, and competed professionally in the Grand American Road Race Series in GT and Daytona prototype classes. He is still recovering from an accident that occurred while practicing for the 2006 24 Hours of Daytona.

As the protector of his father's legacy, Chad worked with Ford on the '01 Bullitt GT program. As part of the deal, Chad received the first production '01 Bullitt Mustang. Last year, he also took delivery of the first '08 Bullitt Mustang. The only Bullitt Mustang he didn't own was a replica of the '68-until now.

In a meeting of the minds, YearOne president Kevin King, artist Phil Brewer, Gateway's Jason and Lonny Childress, and creative advisor Matt Stone conferred on camera about the goals for Chad McQueen's '68 Bullitt Mustang buildup.

Bud Brutsman, a Los Angeles TV producer who is best known for creating the popular Overhaulin' series, came up with the idea of building a modern rendition of the Bullitt Mustang for Chad for an episode of Celebrity Rides on The Learning Channel. Bud had worked with both YearOne and Gateway Classic Mustang on previous TV projects, so he pulled the two companies together to create Chad's '68 Bullitt, with YearOne providing parts and Gateway handling the buildup expertise at their St. Louis shop. The goal was simple: Stick with the classic visuals of the original Bullitt Mustang but update the powertrain and suspension to modern specifications. "It's built to be driven," says Gateway's Jason Childress. "We wanted to build a car that Chad would want to jump in and drive."

Externally, Chad wanted an accurate replica of his dad's movie Mustang. He asked close friend Matt Stone, Motor Trend executive editor and author of the book, McQueen's Machines, to oversee the Bullitt details. Matt brought photo stills from the 1968 movie so the group could duplicate the modifications to the original Mustang, such as the painted rocker moldings, GT rear valance with exhaust cutouts, black rear panel, and fenders with no emblems.

To ensure accuracy, Matt Stone brought stills from the movie and pointed out the many nuances on the original Bullitt Mustang, such as the blackout taillight panel and side mirror.

"Chad wanted a car that looked right," Matt said. "I had discovered a lot of movie stills during my research for the book and studied them to determine how the movie car was equipped-what's black, what's taken off, and that sort of thing." Matt points out that two Mustangs were used for filming and they differed in some areas. For example, one car had an exterior mirror and the other didn't.

With cameras rolling, the Gateway crew, with additional YearOne staff brought in, built the Mustang from start to finish in only four months. "We couldn't have done it that quick without Dynacorn's reproduction '67 Mustang fastback body shell," explained Gateway's Jason Childress. "It gave us a great starting point without having to disassemble and repair an original body."

Gateway's Lonny Childress agrees: "With the Dynacorn body, we can start building a car as soon as we open the crate. If you're building a restomod, it's the way to go. The steel is better than it was in '67 and Dynacorn has added some updates, like the shock tower braces and improved door hinges."