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."

Chad refers to the Gateway gang as "artisans," and we can see why based on the Mustang's bodywork and paint. Lonny prepared the body for paint, applying plenty of seam sealer, perfecting body panel gaps, and prepping the sheetmetal. For accuracy, he also added the '68 sheetmetal "indentations," robbed from a parts car in Gateway's back-lot graveyard, for the early-'68 rear quarter-panel reflectors.

With the body painted in DuPont Hot Hues' Highland Green, it was ready for reassembly. Lonny points out that most of the parts needed to complete the assembly of a Dynacorn body are available brand new from Mustang mail-order companies. For Chad's Bullitt, he only used a handful of vintage parts, such as the glovebox door, cowl-to-dash brace, and tachometer instrument cluster. YearOne supplied the bulk of the new replacement components, while Dynacorn provided the fold-down rear seat assembly, headlight buckets, and other sheetmetal parts.

The project started in earnest when the crew ripped open the crate from Dynacorn. The reproduction '67 fastback body provided a clean starting point without the need for time-consuming rust and sheetmetal repairs.

To bring handling and braking up to par with a new Mustang, the buildup incorporated RRS front and rear suspensions. At the front is a coilover strut system with RRS's phase II brakes with dual-piston calipers, as supplied by Stainless Steel Brakes Corporation. Power rack-and-pinion, also from RRS, beats the vintage steering gear every time for precise control. At the rear is RRS's bolt-in three-link suspension system, which securely locates the 9-inch rear axle with a Watt's link and an extra-long torque arm. The three-link offers a number of improvements over the factory rear suspension, including improved traction and better handling via adjustable ride height, tubular arms, and urethane bushings. Disc brakes are part of the package.

For power, Chad gets to put his foot into a Ford Racing Boss 347 crate engine, rated at 450hp and 400 lb. ft. of torque. On top of the 4-bolt block and between the aluminum "Z" cylinder heads is a Victor Jr. aluminum intake topped by a 770-cfm Holley Street Avenger four-barrel carburetor. Headers are from JBA, followed by a complete JBA exhaust system with straight tips like those of the movie Mustang.

In the quest for accuracy, Gateway's Lonny Childress transferred the rear quarter reflector indentations from a boneyard '68 Mustang to the '67 Dynacorn body, which didn't have provisions for the reflectors that became standard equipment for '68. Jason Childress notes that the original Bullitt Mustang was an early production car, so it had the indents for the reflectors. Later production '68s (after February 15, 1968) had bolt-on reflectors without the indentation in the sheetmetal.

Steve McQueen shifted a four-speed in the movie, but this modern rendition is equipped with a late-model T-45 five-speed, adapted for the vintage Mustang with a conversion from Keisler Engineering, complete with a stealthy '68-style shifter handle. Out back is a beefy 9-inch rearend with 3.50:1 gears.

Like the movie Mustang, the interior is black, but it's upgraded to Deluxe with woodgrain trim and molded door panels from YearOne. The bucket seats are from TMI's Sport line. Hidden behind panels are Boston Acoustic speakers, subwoofers, and amp.

The buildup crew debated over the wheels. There was no doubt that iconic five-spoke American Racing Torque Thrusts would be used. However, some thought 18-inch versions would look better on the restomod replica, while others, including creative advisor Matt Stone, wanted to stick with the original 15-inch wheels. In the end, they compromised, going with slightly larger 16-inch Torque Thrusts with BFGoodrich G-force Sport tires.

Chad's modern Bullitt was slated to debut during November's SEMA Show. However, before heading to Las Vegas, the just-completed '68 Mustang detoured to Malibu, California, so Chad could get an up-close look at the latest addition to his Bullitt stable. With the Celebrity Rides cameras rolling, Chad watched as the Mustang was unloaded from Gateway's Haulmark trailer, grinning broadly as he pointed out the Bullitt details and restomod upgrades. Then he did exactly what the guys at Gateway and YearOne wanted-he took it for a spin.

Only minor prepping was required to get the Dynacorn body ready for paint. According to Lonny, the bodywork was completed and the car was in primer within two weeks.

"I put about 60 miles on it," Chad said after returning the car in one piece. "The car is great. It's got so many adjustments. It doesn't feel like a 40-year-old car. I mean, everything is tight. In the two hours I had it, we started messing with the suspension adjustments. I think there's a lot more to be had out of it. It's a phenomenal piece of work, built by artisans."

Forty years after his father vaulted a Highland Green '68 fastback over the hills of San Francisco and into American movie icon status, Chad noted that locals immediately recognized this modern-day replica. "When I was going up and down the Pacific Coast Highway, it was surprising how many people knew what it was," Chad said. "We got thumbs up from a bunch of people." That's saying something in car-happy southern California.

Gateway utilized DuPont Hot Hues for the Highland Green paint on Chad's '68 Mustang.

Editor's Note: The buildup of Chad McQueen's '68 Bullitt Mustang is scheduled to appear as a Celebrity Rides episode in early 2009. Go to www.gatewayclassicmustang.com for updates on show air times.

Chad McQueen'68 Bullitt Specifications

Exterior
Body: Dynacorn reproduction '67 Mustang fastback body shell
Paint: Highland Green by DuPont Hot Hues; Mothers wax
Bullitt cues: Torque Thrust wheels, blackout taillight panels and bezels, no backup lights, grille and body emblems removed, body color rocker moldings, black sidemirror, antenna mounted on rearquarter-panel, straight exhaust tips

Engine & Drivetrain
Engine: {{{Ford}}} Racing Boss 347
Carb: Holley 770 Street {{{Avenger}}}
Exhaust: JBA
Bellhousing: QuickTime
Clutch: Ace Manufacturing
Transmission: T-45 five-speed with completeKeisler conversion kit
Rearend: 9-inch with 3.50:1 gears
With few exceptions, all new parts were used for the assembly of the '68 modern Bullitt. Here you can see the RRS coilover front strut suspension.
Suspension
Front: RRS Strut Kit Phase II
Rear: RRS three-link
Steering: RRS power rack-and-pinion
Steering column: ididit
Brakes, front: RRS disc, from Stainless Steel Brakes Corporation
Brakes, rear: RRS disc
Wheels: American Racing Torque Thrust-16x7 front, 16x8 rear
Tires: BFGoodrich G-Force Sport
Interior
Interior:'68 Mustang Deluxe, black
Sound deadener: Dynamat
Wiring: American Autowire
Seats: TMI Sport
Gauges: Factory tachometer instrument cluster
A/C: Classic Auto Air
Sound system: Boston Acoustics
The RRS rear three-link setup utilizes an extra long torque arm for better control. Here, it's being mounted to the 9-inch rear axlehousing.
Build Team
Creative advisor: Matt Stone
Body & paint: Marty Veltrop, Nick Branson, ZachVeltrop, Lonny Childress
Assembly: Darrel Bloomner, Jason Childress,Lonny Childress, Mike White, Bill Bufka, Greg Morland
Glass: Mike Hatcher
YearOne builders: David Gravley, Mark McDonald, Keith Manley, Phil Brewer
Equipment suppliers: DuPont, 3M, Mac Tools, Miller Welders, Sata Spray Equipment, Timberland (boots), IronClad (mechanics gloves)