History was made in the US car auction business overnight after the Highland Green 1968 Ford Mustang GT featured in the film Bullitt was sold at a Florida auction house for $US3.74 million ($5.44 million).
Huge crowds gathered at Kissimmee’s Silver Spurs arena on Saturday (AEDT) as the car made famous by the late “King of Cool” Steve McQueen, who played the title character in the movie, was driven through the Oceola Heritage Park and parked at the auction block.
The Mecum sale marks the most expensive Mustang ever sold, surpassing a 1967 Shelby GT500 Super Snake that sold last year for $US2.2 million ($3.2 million), the Orlando Sentinel reported.
Watched by a crowd of 25,000 with his sister Kelly Cotton in the front passenger seat, owner Sean Kiernan revved its engines and drove the car that has been in his family for 45 years to the stage.
In the late 1970s, McQueen tracked down the Kiernans and asked if he could reclaim the muscle car in return for a similar Mustang.
His pleas went unanswered.
“This car had sold twice in its life … each time it has sold, it was $US3500 ($5090),” Mr Kiernan said.
“So we’re going to start it off at that price and go from there.”
Fans took to social media to describe the moment as “legendary”, saying McQueen, who played Lieutenant Frank Bullitt in the film, would be in “auto Heaven … with a big smile thinking I ragged the hell out of that car”.
Another wrote: “It came in like the heavyweight champion!!!”
Let’s drive down memory lane and watch what many claim is the greatest cinematic car chase of all time:
With bidding topping $4.3 million in the first minute, the top bid went back and forth between someone present and a bidder on the phone for several minutes before the mystery buyer on the phone won, agreeing to pay $5.4 million plus a 10 per cent buyer’s premium.
Mr Kiernan’s father, Robert, bought the car after seeing an advertisement in a 1974 issue of Road & Track.
The New Jersey family used it to do the daily rounds to school and work until the clutch gave out in 1980.
In 2001, Robert and Sean Kiernan dusted the covers off the famous car and began restoring it to its former glory for the next three years.
After Robert Kiernan’s death in 2014, Sean Kiernan finished the car and revealed it to the world.
Following the car’s sale, Sean Kiernan said he doesn’t think a more expensive Mustang will ever be sold.
“As far as Mustangs go, this is it. With dad being down in the record books forever, that’s what matters to me,” he said.
“I’ve been at peace with the sale for probably eight months now. We’re just having fun with this.”