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The return of Ford Mustang Bullitt tugs at auto lovers’ heart strings

Something new, in the spirit of something old

Photo by Sean O'Kane / The Verge

The original 1968 Mustang Bullitt is at the North American International Auto Show. It’s a Detroit carmaker’s move from an old playbook, a reference to the glory days of the pony car era, but it’s still hard to resist. In the shadow of its smart city initiatives, Ford revealed the newest model from its iconic Mustang brand on Sunday afternoon: a new Bullitt Mustang. It was a tug at Mustang lovers’ heart strings and a reassurance Ford hasn’t abandoned those who hunger for nostalgic cars.

Most of us are too young to have seen the movie attached to the car in theaters 50 years ago, or to understand the thrill it created among car enthusiasts that is now legend. Its legacy can be summed up in a 10-minute car chase, in which the Mustang is driven by the Hollywood legend Steve McQueen. The film won the Academy Award for best film editing and a nomination for best sound, presumably attributed to the growl of those V8 engines. It’s a cult classic, and it still looks fresh in an old-school cool way. Smoke burns from the tires as the Mustang twists and turns through the streets of San Francisco.

Ford brought McQueen’s granddaughter to the stage to roll out the limited edition Mustang at the North American International Auto Show — but that’s not all. It also showed one of a couple original Mustangs used in the film, a faded Highland Green original. Turns out, the car had been hiding out in a New Jersey garage since the 1980s, in true getaway car spirit. (Technically the Dodge Charger R/T played the bad guy in the movie.)

The newest Bullitt is based on the Mustang GT and is equipped with a 5.0-liter V8 engine. It pumps out 475 horsepower and 420 pound-feet of torque. Its top speed is 163 mph. What makes it special is at first glance — its color scheme — a bend on the dark highland green. It’s also available in a less vintage shadow black. It has chrome accents and a circular, white shifter lever for its six-speed manual-only transmission. One thing you can get on the new Bullitt Mustang that highlights its new-car tech: a 12-inch LCD touchscreen. One thing you can’t get from the old: Steve McQueen’s brand of classic cool.