Sandicliffe Ford and Steeda join forces to create a modern interpretation of a fast Ford icon. The resulting 720bhp Steve McQueen Edition Bullitt Mustang is a true big gun.
Feature from Fast Ford. Words: Pro-Motiv. Photos: Chris Wallbank
A whopping $3.74 million was the price reached at auction for the original 1968 Ford Mustang GT driven by Steve McQueen in the film Bullitt. When the gavel came down, the Dark Highland Green coupé became the world’s most valuable Mustang.
The movie’s defining ten-minute chase sequence and the Mustang’s association with the original King of Cool immortalised the car in popular culture. And over the past 20 years, Ford has capitalised on this by releasing three Bullitt special-edition Mustangs (in 2001, 2008 and 2019), each with upgraded hardware and features inspired by the iconic original.
But while these specials definitely went above in terms of specification, they could never be described as going beyond in an effort to further McQueen’s legacy.
Let’s not forget that McQueen was a talented driver and motorsport fanatic, and personally oversaw the modifications applied to the Mustang for its starring role in the movie. So it is historically appropriate for any serious homage to Frank Bullitt’s daily driver to receive input from the McQueen family.
The Steeda Steve McQueen Edition Bullitt Mustang therefore represents the most serious, most badass, most authentically ‘above and beyond’ tribute to the 1968 original to ever hit the road. Enthusiasts will spot that it is a collaboration between the respected Mustang specialists at Steeda and the modern McQueen household: Steve’s professional racing-driver son Chad and his McQueen Racing team. Strictly limited to just 300 examples per year worldwide, this special edition is officially sanctioned and carries the Steve McQueen Edition trademark for ultimate aficionado points. What’s more, there are currently just two Steve McQueen Editions residing in the UK (a third arriving in 2022); three are situated in Czech Republic, one in Germany and one in France. That makes this example one of just eight across all of Europe.
The Nottingham-based Sandicliffe Ford dealership has become the first UK car dealer to recreate the new Steve McQueen Edition Bullitt Mustang – car number five in this year’s global allocation. Sales executive Aaron Borg, who has been managing this build project on behalf of an unnamed client, describes the car as boasting ‘stunning performance with perfectly understated styling’.
What makes it such an intoxicating experience? Drilling down into the specifications, each example is based on a standard 50th anniversary Ford Mustang Bullitt edition – itself an outstanding modern muscle car – but re-engineered in every major department to deliver supreme performance, increased exclusivity, and an appearance that is effortlessly cool yet undeniably menacing.
Those understated looks begin with the fitment of a new Steeda Q-Series front fascia. McQueen himself was keen to debadge and dechrome the grille of his 1968 Mustang, so the precedent is there to tweak the front-end – albeit this time with subtly accentuated angles for improved aerodynamics and a more aggressive chin spoiler, which comes out further and lower than the factory item.
When paired with Steeda’s MagneRide dual-rate competition springs, this baseline lowering hunkers the car down beautifully over one of the car’s key aesthetic cues – an outstanding modern interpretation of the classic American Racing Torq Thrust mag wheels. Gently staggered in width from front to rear, these 20in Steve McQueen Edition monsters dwarf the 15in originals but provide the larger footprint needed to keep the 720bhp-plus motor on the (relatively) straight and narrow.
Notable mentions in that regard should also go to the wealth of uprated chassis parts installed out of sight. The original independent rear suspension setup is secured and aligned with Steeda’s IRS support package, while Ford Performance ‘severe-duty’ halfshafts emerge from the differential to send rubber-vaporising torque to each wheel. Also improving rear-end feel are uprated and flex-proof vertical links, while Steeda anti-roll bars are installed across both axles and secured to the body with billet mounts to keep body roll to a minimum.
A bump-steer kit and camber plates correct steering feel and geometry that might have been adversely affected by the drop in ride height. Similarly, the inclusion of a Steeda Extreme G-Track brace connects the front subframe to the control arm mounts so the suspension geometry doesn’t change during sessions of high load, when upwards of 720 stampeding horses are released.
Those high loads come courtesy of a Whipple supercharger conversion, which nestles between each cylinder bank of the 5.0-litre Coyote V8, drawing in almost three litres of atmosphere with every rotation of its twin screws.
The reason for this mighty gulp of air is so that the system doesn’t have to work as hard to produce power and therefore doesn’t create as much heat either.
Nevertheless, beneath the supercharger mechanism lies an integrated air-to-water heat exchanger that uses liquid drawn from the intercooler to lower the temperature of the charged air before it enters the combustion chamber, minimising risk of premature ignition.
Similarly, the Whipple conversion comes with its own intake and fuel supply system, included among which is a unique 132mm throttle body. The elliptical design of this gateway can flow greater quantities of air than a circular design, yet by the same token requires careful ECU tuning.
This area has been well and truly nailed with the programming of an HP Tuners MPVI2 package, which grants the original ECU with more than enough talent and brainpower to manage the upgrade, optimise the ignition timing, and deliver superb – albeit scarily rapid – driveability without affecting the control module’s built-in failsafe functions. Having pioneered the highly capable MPVI2 package with Europe’s first Whipple supercharged Mustang, Sandicliffe commissioned Leeds-based tuner Motorsport and Performance to perform the vital calibration process.
Such is the intoxicating rush of this new-found power that you wouldn’t want to waste too much time changing gears. And while we couldn’t imagine McQueen putting his name to a Bullitt edition with an automatic transmission, the physical experience of cog-swapping has been tightened up with a short-throw shift kit and an uprated clutch spring and perch.
During his preparation for the role of San Francisco police lieutenant Frank Bullitt, McQueen viewed the Mustang as a character in its own right. The auction result, and the public awareness it promoted, once again proved that his decision was correct.
But while that particular 1968 Mustang GT will only ever be the preserve of one fortunate individual, the availability of the new, characterful Steeda Steve McQueen Edition Bullitt Mustang reassures the world that this icon is ready for a new starring role.
Tech Spec: Steeda Steve McQueen Edition Bullitt Mustang
4951cc Coyote V8 with Steve McQueen Edition Stage 1 Whipple supercharger conversion, Steeda coolant expansion tank, HP Tuners MPVI2 ECU tuning with map by Motorsport and Performance
Getrag MT-82 six-speed manual gearbox, Ford Performance severe-duty halfshaft upgrade, Steeda Tri-Ax short-throw shifter, Steeda clutch spring assist and spring perch kit
Ford MagneRide dampers, Steeda MagneRide dual-rate competition lowering springs, Steeda anti-roll bars with press-fit solid billet ends, Steeda billet alloy anti-roll bar mounts, Steeda IRS package (subframe bushing support system, subframe alignment kit, subframe support brace), Steeda billet alloy vertical links, Steeda bump-steer kit, Steeda camber plates, performance wheel alignment, Steeda ultra-light jacking rails, Steeda Extreme G-Track brace
Front: 380mm ventilated discs with Brembo six-piston callipers; rear: 330mm ventilated discs with floating callipers; ABS, AdvanceTrac electronic stability control, electronic line-lock
Wheels & Tyres:
10×20in (front) and 11×20in (rear) Steve McQueen Edition alloy wheels with matching centre caps, 275/35×20 (front) and 305/35×20 (rear) Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tyres
Bullitt Edition Dark Highland Green paint, Steeda Q-Series front fascia, Steeda bonnet struts, Steve McQueen Edition engine compartment serial plates, boot emblem, Steve McQueen Edition special thank you package (letter of authenticity, engraved key fobs, signed and numbered Chad McQueen poster, signed and numbered archival pigment print by Camilo Pardo)
Bullitt Edition Ebony leather Recaros with green stitching, Steve McQueen Edition illuminated door sill plates, Steve McQueen Edition dashboard serial plates