More Mustang For the Money
The Ford Mustang has definitely had its share of limited editions, especially since the introduction of the latest (retro) generation three years ago. Re-introduced for the second time in 2008, the Bullitt is the latest of these hopped-up ponies. It’s a modern remake of the Mustang Fastback made famous by the movie that gives this new car its name. But, unlike other editions, this one is special because Ford managed to preserve the right details of the original car. The new Bullitt gets its appeal from what’s been removed as much as from what’s been added.
With the exterior, the Bullitt’s designers removed all “GT”, “Ford” and “Mustang” badges, including the ‘pony’ emblem usually found prancing across the front grille. The only visual designation is the ‘BULLITT’ CNC-machined faux centre-mounted gas tank lid. The rear spoiler was chopped in favor of a clean decklid or slicktop as we like to call it. Dual 3.5-inch polished exhaust tips finish off the rear end. Bullitt-spec springs lower the car but only by fractions of an inch. An even lower stance, we think, would help the car appear more aggressive compared to the GT but we’ll see if that happens in the future. Wider tires would be ideal too since the new Bullitt rolls on 235mm-wide BFGoodrich KDW tires. They are a marked improvement over stock rubber but too narrow for this much car. The 235s are fitted to 18-inch wheels that have five gunmetal spokes and a machined lip: a true throwback to the original, only bigger. Just two body colors are available. One is black; the other is the much more suitable Dark Highland Green – the same hue as the `68 Fastback we’ve all seen jumping the hills of San Francisco in the movie Bullitt. Blacked out and cleaned up, it makes for a very convincing package especially for those who appreciate a “less is more” design philosophy. What you get is a lot of attitude and in limited numbers with only 7700 in total produced according to the special number plate.
The interior retains its original form apart from a few added details. Most noticeably, the span of black plastic across the dashboard is now covered by a hand-machined aluminum appliqué. The ball shifter and door sill plates are satin-finished aluminum. Together these elements do a lot to brighten up an otherwise austere interior. One thing that may have added to the cause would have been to replace the door inserts with something more exciting. There’s still a lot of dark plastic inside. The leather-wrapped wheel, aluminum pedals and ball shifter work well enough to convince you at times that you really are Frank Bullitt.
If you actually find some bad-guys in a black Charger to chase down, the Ford Racing Power Pack (a cool air intake system) and shorter final drive (3.73:1 vs. 3.55:1) with limited slip differential will help make that happen. A unique ECU calibration (which includes a higher redline) plus better breathing help the 4.6L V-8 produce 315 hp and 325 lb-ft of torque. A five-speed manual is the only transmission available, so posers need not apply.
Retuned dampers and anti-roll bars help the car confidently change direction and it’s an improvement over the GT. The car still feels soft though it’s nothing a pair of upgraded anti-roll bars wouldn’t resolve. The car doesn’t let you forget its solid axle underpinnings but the stiff chassis really helps you make the most of it. There was enough suspension underneath the car (and more importantly torque to get out of the corners) to keep pace on with the 40th Anniversary 911 during our track test. Although we understand that may be hard to digest with so many variables in play but it did happen.
Overall, the Bullitt is much more satisfying to drive than its common GT counterpart and it’s not solely because of the suspension tweaks. It also comes from knowing that you’re driving something special that’s based on merit and not on a badge. Ford certainly has a winner here both on and off track, especially at the price point, which is only $38,844. We think Frank would approve.