Woah, McQueen: 'Bullitt' Mustang coming to Woodward Dream Cruise

Ian Thibodeau
The Detroit News
The original car from the movie "Bullitt" is driven onto the stage during the Ford reveal at the Detroit auto show earlier this year.

One of the most famous vehicles in the history of American muscle will shine on Woodward this year. The original 1968 Mustang GT Fastback from the movie "Bullitt" will be in town for the Dream Cruise.

It's the car that spawned millions of car fans, and Sean Kiernan, the owner, said he's happy to have another chance to let fans see the pony car at the Woodward Dream Cruise.

"It's something I've been looking forward to," he said in an interview. "Hopefully, I'll get a chance to show it off as much as possible."

The "Bullitt" car will be parked in a display with three other iconic Mustangs at Kruse & Muer on Woodward in Royal Oak from Thursday to Saturday during the cruise. The 'Stang will be flanked by Ford's 2019 special edition iteration of the vehicle, the very first Mustang sold and the 10 millionth pony car that Ford debuted in early August.

Ford, which sponsors the cruise, will also have Mustang Alley on Nine Mile in Ferndale, where fans can peruse hundreds of classic cars owners will proudly display.

The Dream Cruise is just one in a series of stops this year Kiernan and his wife, Sam, have made since the car rolled onto the stage at the 2018 Detroit auto show. Kiernan and his car helped Ford introduce a special edition 2019 Mustang Bullitt GT there, and it was the first time anyone had seen the actual car Steve McQueen raced through San Francisco in the iconic film. 

Kiernan's answered the same question around the world this year, and yes, he says, this is the actual car McQueen drove in the movie.

He's preserving the vehicle now, he says. The paint is tarnished in spots, and there are still holes in the trunk where Hollywood fed smoke machine lines through when they couldn't figure out how to make the tires smoke enough during filming.

But to fix any of that would be to erase the history of the vehicle, Kiernan has said. And there's American history and Kiernan's family history tied up in the car.

By his count, only four people besides him have sat in the driver's seat after the film: his mom, his late father Bob, Jay Leno and the man who owned the vehicle for a brief time after the movie. He doesn't let anyone drive it, and the car will be behind glass in the display on Woodward.

The car is a Kiernan family heirloom. His mother, Robbie, drove it around as her daily vehicle before she and her late husband started a family. 

In 2001, Kiernan and his father took the car apart. When Bob died in 2014, the car was still in pieces. He recently reassembled it, and then reached out to Ford.

That was nerve-wracking, Kiernan has told The News. He wasn't sure if Ford or some other collector would try to take the car from him to put it in a museum. But Ford has been great, he said.

He's not selling the car, but he's had the chance to travel the country — and world — to show the car everywhere from Washington, D.C., to the Goodwood Festival of Speed in England and help Ford promote the new muscle car.

"It's fun for me," Kiernan said. "As long as the car's doing good, I'm good."


Twitter: @Ian_Thibodeau