Some time ago, Jil McIntosh wrote a piece about auto writers who forget that they are (or should be) writing for real people, not just zillionaires. You know the guys, they are the ones who write that a 2 seater that sells for a hundred grand is a value priced sports car. While I can’t remember when or where Jil’s article appeared, it came to mind this weekend as we traveled in the 2008 Ford Mustang Bullitt.
Nicknamed Frank, our tester came equipped with touch screen navigation and keyless alarm. The current pricing packages bring Frank to a whopping $34,079 cdn. So let’s add this up here: 2 doors, 315 horsepower, 325 ft/lbs torque, leather interior, navi, a cool shifter, aluminum dash, upgraded suspension and brakes, cold air intake and an absolutely incredible exhaust note. All of that adds up to an incredible value in my eyes.
Before we get back to the topic of value, let’s talk about the experience. The Ford team has taken the legend of Detective Frank Bullitt’s trusty steed and brought it into the modern day. The coat of Highland Green is accentuated by the stripped down look. The only blue oval in sight is the one that appears when the navi screen fires up. There are no prancing horses and the only exterior badging is the faux fuel filler at the rear that says Bullitt, with Ford in small letters down below. 18 inch Torque Thrust knock off wheels complete the blacked out look. Definitely a sleeper, except that almost everyone knows what it is.
In fact, the attention this car gets standing still is beyond the imagination. At Lime Rock, our spot in the media lot put us right beside the Aston Martin GT2 car. Surprisingly, the Bullitt garnered almost as much attention as the British Racing Green Aston! We even saw people (and I mean many people) having their photos taken next to it. This stripped down movie car clone gets noticed, even when the V8 rumble is silent.[nggallery id=20]
That rumble starts at the intake and ends out back. For the first time, Ford has fitted a Mustang with a cold air intake, complete with exposed air filter. That cold air is fed to a 4.6l V8 then through a true H-pipe exhaust system that was developed specifically for the Bullitt. Rumour has it that $10 million was spent to ensure the exhaust note was identical to that of the digitally remastered movie soundtrack. They got it absolutely perfect. At idle and when cruising, the exhaust is a powerful but reserved rumble. Press on the loud pedal though and all hell breaks loose! This thing is louder than anything the guys back in high school had, sounding more like a muted Trans Am car than a showroom piece. Through in an occasional double clutch shift and it is easy to pretend you are chasing that black Charger. That brings us to the Tremec 5 speed transmission. Those of you old enough to remember the Trans Am series will recall that Tremec made many fine racing gear boxes. The unit in the Bullitt has a wonderful short throw and shifts smoothly and super crisp. Connected to the special aluminum ball shift knob, it feels just right.
To keep up with the hard charging sound, engineers swapped out the standard Mustang GT struts & shocks for more agressive units. A front strut tower brace stiffens up the front end, while also providing a cool spot for the individual production number. Front brake pads were also upgraded to reduce fade and improve feel. On the road, all these pieces work well together to give a ride that was perfectly comfortable for our 7 hour drive to Lime Rock, while also handling the twisty stuff. While the package feels a bit squishier than the GT500 we drove on the track last fall, the handling is fairly neutral and oversteer is just a poke at the throttle away.
Inside, the leather seats have a wide tuck and roll that is just modern enough, yet it looks like the vinyl seats of the late Sixties that inspired them. The car is listed as a 4 seater, but the rear passengers better have short legs unless the driver and front seat passenger are 5′ 2″. Up front though, the seats are comfy and supportive enough for windy roads though they may leave lapping day users looking for something to hold on to. For our trip, we felt like Kings of The Road with Frankie the navi queen whispering directions and the Shaker 500 audio system belting out tunes from the Sirius Satellite feed.
All of which brings me back to the concept of value. A fellow blogger commented on the Bullitt when we were at Lime Rock. He mentioned that he had driven the car the same afternoon that he had attended the launch of the GT500KR and the Bullitt felt like a slow pile of crap after driving the KR. Well….no kidding pal! The KR isn’t even listed on the Ford of Canada site, but the GT500 is a full $22,000 more than the Bullitt. If I had spent that much dough and it didn’t feel tighter, crisper and more track ready, I’d be beyond ticked and I doubt I’m in the minority on that. At 34 grand, the 2008 Mustang Bullitt offers true grand touring comfort, wicked acceleration, truly fun handling and a wicked sound. Couple all of that with the crowd stopping image and you have an incredible value!
This review was originally published in The Garage