The cars we loved.
1999 marked something of an overhaul for the fourth generation Mustang. An upgraded engine, new interior and a fresh New Edge inspired look evolved the design into the new century. The blocked off edges of Ford’s New Edge Mustang look did not translate so well as to other cars like the Focus or Cougar. In fact the 99-04 years might be considered some of the ugliest Mustangs since the Mustang II. The Mustang II ironically may appreciate in its aesthetic value, but the final Fox bodied Mustangs were jammed into an uncomfortable position . Everyone knew that an all new design was just around the corner.
Controversial looks or not, one of the most interesting ‘Stangs’ from this period was the 2001 Bullitt Edition. The Bullitt was a 2001 model year only tribute to the 1968 film by the same name. It had been 30 years since Steve McQueen drove a 1967 390 fastback in the famous chase scene with a 1967 Dodge Charger. In the film the Mustang looked surprisingly tattered and well used to have been only a year old, but it’s 10 minutes screen time did wonders for the Mustang’s image, even to this day. A 2000 concept car at the LA Auto Show paying homage to the film sparked quite a response, so much so that Ford decided to roll out yet another special edition (a 35th Anniversary car had just come in 1999) of the Mustang.
Ford took the base Mustang GT and deleted the rear spoiler and fog lights. Subtle exterior changes like an altered “C” pillar disguised the fact that underneath the low-key Mustang body were plenty of SVO-like modifications. Although the original car from the film was a fastback, the New Edge styled 2001 Bullitt came only as a coupe. While fastback styling was absent, Ford made as many concessions to nostalgia as possible to keep the $3,500+ premium over the GT within reach.
Starting with a base GT, the Bullitt would get special 17” American Racing Torq-Thrust “mag” style wheels. A version of the wheels would show up in later GT, but on the Bullitt their dark grey color provided a distinctive contrast to the dark green paint and the red calipers peaking from behind.
The subtle street rod look was enhanced with a lowered suspension complete with Tokico shocks. The 4.7-litre V8 from the GT got a new SVT intake, high-flow mufflers and other modifications. While the Bullitt was rated only 5 hp more than the GT at 265 hp, actual power was closer to the 270-275 range. While many special edition Mustangs were seldom short of power, this one was more about handling, something not associated with tail happy American muscle cars.
The Bullitt had world-class handling, not typical of a standard GT or even the Cobra with its fancy independent rear suspension for that matter. All the enhancements amounted to what many in the motoring press were calling “the best handling production Mustang ever”.
The interior had little to distinguish it from most GT’s except for metal petals and a few trim pieces that gave the interior a late 1960s vibe. Less than 4000 buyers would get to find out for themselves, making the first Bullet car collectible. More than that it offered in interesting bridge between the GT and Cobra models while handling better than either one under most conditions. It also is one of the more attractive and restrained Mustangs especially from the New Edge design era.