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The Long-Lost "Crushed" Bullitt Stunt Car was Found in Mexico
The legend has been the same for decades:There were two 1968 Ford Mustang GT fastbacks provided by the Blue Oval as stunt cars in 1968's Bullitt, starring Steve McQueen. Both were Highland Green with aftermarket Cragar wheels, equipped with howling S-code 390s and four-speeds -- though sometimes a 289 wasclaimed to be the nimble jump car's motivator -- and both weremodified by Hollywood car builder Max Balchowsky to fit the interior movie lighting and cameras while also upgrading the chassis and suspension for the those famous jumps through the streets of San Francisco.
After filming, the lesser-damaged Mustang was soldtoa Warner Brothers employee named Robert Ross, who sold it to a now-retired New Jerseydetective named Frank Marranca (coincidentally, "Frank Bullitt" was McQueen's detective character), who then sold it in 1974 to the anonymous current owner that allegedly hid it in aKentucky Barn-- and the second stunt car, the one that folds the front suspension at the end of the chase scene, was thought to be so heavily damaged during filming that it was crushed.
Despite letters from McQueen attempting to buy what was thought to be the last surviving car from the mysterious third-owner in 1977 (before his death in 1980), it was assumed that the storyended there -- as heartbreaking of a conclusion as one could imagine for the legacy of both the actor and film.
That is, until a dusty, white '68 fastback was pulled from a backyard in Mexico -- ironically to berestomodded into an "Eleanor" from 2000'sGone in 60 Seconds.When the body shop ran the build plates throughtheMarti Report, an extensive early Mustang background check, plans changed.
VIN 8R02S125558, the consecutive build number of thepreviously "lone-surviving" Kentucky Bullitt (8R02S125559), had been found. The history bookswerewrong: the second Bullitt stunt car was indeed soldafter filming, though it's currently unknown how.
Other than the VIN, there were more clues: The shock towers were welded, chassis reinforcements were found, and the rear-left inner-fender had a hole cut, which was presumably used for exhaust pipe of the trunk-mounted, gas-powered generator that energized the in-car movie lights used in the interior shots (35mm movie cameras needed a lot of lighting to expose the film properly) in both stunt cars. There was also a fair amount of chassis damage in strange places; and of course, through the layers of spray paint, was the notorious Highland Green paint.
According to Federico Garza -- theStangs de Mexicali club memberwho discovered the news when the body shop's owner, Ralph Garcia Jr., came to his fastener shop, hands shaking, with photos of the car and VIN plate -- both Mustangs in the lead photo above were purchased by Hugo Sanchez withthe intention of using both to build an Eleanor tribute from the 2000 remake of Gone in 60 Seconds. The car had been around for 20-30 years, at one point abandoned down in the Baja California Sur peninsula, before Hugo finally rescued it.
This, of course, could have been one of the biggest travesties in movie and Mustang culture had it not been for Ralph's research, which lead to Kevin Marti's early Mustang report. The Marti Report is something you buy when researching that next six-digit auction buy to make sure it's the real-deal; and Kevin's word, backed up by a private database of factory Ford records and information, is considered the gospel for a Mustang owner looking for the exact history of their car -- and it didn't take long until he found himself at a Ford dealership in Mexicali.
With Ralph's blessing and Stangs de Mexicali's support, Federico arranged for the car to be featured at a local Ford dealership to showcase the discovery. In the months ahead, Ralph's body shop replaced the roof, quarters, and floor pans (though they are staying with the Baja Bullitt) before quickly wrapping the car in a fresh coat of paint. Federico then began posting photos to the Vintage-Mustangs forum, with the membership showing equal amounts of skepticism and mouth-foaming.
Everything came together last Friday, March 3, when Kevin finally met the BajaBullitt in Mexicali. With a jubilant mariachi band, the Baja Bullitt was pushed inside for Kevin's inspection. It took about a half-hour, but Kevin, Hugo, and Ralph finished their scrutiny with success and smiles. According tothe in-person Marti Report, the Baja Bullitt was8R02S125558 -- the lost stunt car.
Over the weekend, the Baja Bullitt made its way back to the United States (with Federico's father escorting convoy to the border), and according to Fox News, it's heading to Ralph's Paramount, California shop for a restoration with its new owner ahead of the film's 50th anniversary.
Hey -- Ed Roth's Orbitron was also found in Mexico, though being used as a trashcan outside an adult book store.
For more information on the history of the Kentucky Bullitt stunt car, check out Brad Bowling's write-up on Mustang Monthly.