Have you heard? Ford is releasing a new special edition Mustang! Is it something cool like a new Shelby? Nope. Is it some delicious new fastback? No. Could it be a new Leguna Seca edition? Nay, kind sir or madam, if that's how you self-identify. Might Ford be releasing a crazy fast electric version? Hell no. Is it perhaps an even hotter 5.0 that pays tribute to the awesome and fierce GT4 out-of-the-box racer? Hahaha shut up! It's something way dumber than all of those ideas! It's a Bullitt edition Mustang!
That's right, in 2019, more than 300 years after Bullitt was released, Ford is releasing a special edition of the Mustang, celebrating, uh, a movie that is only memorable because it has a car chase in it. Oh, and one of the cars was a green Mustang, okay? A Mustang. A green one. There is one very blatant problem with this idea: Nobody alive today has ever seen the movie Bullitt. Well, that might not be strictly true, but I can say with absolute certainty that there is not one person alive today who can tell you the plot of Bullitt using the character's names.The Plot section on the Bullitt Wikipedia page contains only the shrugging emoji and the words CAR CHASE written 4,981 times, which is probably the number of cigarettes Steve McQueen smoked on set. To dispense with the roast, I do actually have a point here, and it's this: The Bullitt edition Mustang perfectly encapsulates one of the very worst aspects of car culture - and holy hell are there are a ton to pick from - but that terrible aspect is something I am going to call masturbatory nostalgizing, and it must be stopped.
Masturbatory nostalgizing takes up a lot of car culture. Gangs of men and women (but mostly men) run around short-stroking it to THE OLD WAYS™, because these people love to pretend that things were better in the past than they are today. For example, a C2 Corvette Stingray is better than a C7 Corvette Stingray because it just is, everybody knows that. These are the "No Replacement For Displacement" idiots who refer to the engine in their Durango in cubic inches. The "You can't bring your tuned Honda to this car meet, this is only for REAL CARS™" 65 year old wearing a shirt of Calvin peeing on a Toyota emblem. Hell, my own generation is extremely far from innocent of this same practice. Look at how shamelessly we hump the Toyota Supra: So shamelessly for so long that Toyota finally relented and brought it back...16 years after the nameplate was killed off. How pathetic must we look dribbling after the R34 Skyline and the RX-7 the same way our parents have lusted after a GTO wagon? We even do this shit on the podcast -- Regularly. We did an entire episode on it. That's how deeply car culture is obsessed with the past, and in truth, that's how you have to communicate in order to prove your car culture bonafides. If you haven't picked a pony car to fight for, you're nothing. If you don't have a German car brand you ride with, then you're just a pretender. What was your first car? What cars did your dad have? Well, what cars did HIS dad have? Have you ever raced? Have you ever dragged The Strip with Satan? Have you ever outrun the cops in a Tercel? Have you ever shotgunned antifreeze out of a Beetle? Have you ever blown rails of Corvair seat stuffing? It's the ass-sniffing of car culture.
And there's no bottom to it either, absolutely no butthole puns intended. There's always somebody with a deeper car history than you. Somebody who owns more, or has driven more, or has raced professionally, or has some family legacy in the industry, and they will always "win". Because that's what you have to remember when we talk about car culture: In these little debates about old vs new, in these passive-aggressive tests of car knowledge, there is always an intended winner and an intended loser. You can never just talk about it, you have to win, you have to be right, and that's what makes them so virulent. This car, the Bullitt Mustang, is a terminal symptom of the disease. Why? Because Ford wants you, the consumer, to think it's the most special. It's the most exclusive. Oh, Ford took off all the badging because it's more like the movie. They gave the car a fake fuel-filler flap because it's more retro. See this green? The special dark green paint? It's more authentic. It's got more performance parts than a regular Mustang GT. It's got a bigger radiator because it's for car chases, how authentic and special. It's also going to most likely cost more than $45,000 dollars. For, uh, some paint and some other stuff you can get on the regular GT for less. Actually, on the topic of the special paint, you can get the 2019 Bullitt Mustang in two colors: Highland Green (Authentico! *chef kiss*), and Shadow Black (gameshow buzzer noise). Shadow Black is exactly not the color of the Mustang in Bullitt. That is, in fact, the color of the Dodge Charger in the film.
So, uh, wait a second. What exactly is it that's being nostalgized here? What are we meant to be fapping to? It seems that even Ford itself is unclear sometimes, but never mind THAT, keep on pumping, even though the thread is lost.
Why is anybody trying to remember Bullitt in the first place? Nobody really knows. It's been too long. I mean, that big car chase? Quite literally thing only thing that's even known about the movie Bullitt? If you watch it today, the car chase is garbage. It's boring. It's uninteresting. It's camp and it's drab and it's so far from cultural relevance that it exists today as a complete anachronism. It's that Steve Buscemi "Fellow Kids" meme. Both how old he looks in that meme, and how outmoded and overused that meme is today. Saying you love Bullitt is the same as saying your favorite move is Citizen Kane. First off, you're lying, and second, who are you trying to impress with that lie? That iconic shot of McQueen doing a "burnout" in the Mustang, looking back at what may appear to be the ill tire smoke dawg?
Wrong. McQueen is not looking at his cool burnout. He's starting to reverse the car after missing a turn. He missed the turn. He's not moving in this shot, and just after the shot, he's going backwards at a slow walking pace. Super tight. Super cool.
I can hear the baying mobs of masturbators already: "HOW DARE YOU! BULLITT IS A SEMINAL FILM! THERE WOULD BE NO CARS IN MOVIES WITHOUT-" Let me stop you all right there. It is absolutely true that Bullitt was incredibly important to car chases in its own time. Nobody's trying to take your history away from you. I'm just here to contextualize that history appropriately. Bullitt was released in 1968, and the car chase was eventually hailed as a classic. Technically, the scene is quite interesting: New camera technology meant that the shots in this movie are far more modern-looking than they were in most other films of the same period. In fact, I'd even go so far to say that if you took shot-for-shot advice from Bullitt and then used it to make a car chase for any visual medium, you would immediately end up with an average-to-good car chase scene. That's how influential this scene is. That's how foundational it is to the entire genre of "Car Chase" entertainment. It was genuinely never-before-seen in American cinema, and you have to qualify American there, because director Peter Yates was British, and the chase he directed in the 1967 British film Robbery might just be better. That scene actually got him the Bullitt job. Think about that one.
I don't put much stock into the "AND IT'S ALL REAL, TOO" argument, because no shit it was all mostly real, it was 1968. They didn't have another option. That argument is also woefully inadequate on its own. Sure, it's "more real" than some chases, but no more "real" than, say, the highway scene in The Matrix Reloaded. It was still filmed in chunks, stunt drivers still did all the dangerous bits, there are still inconsistencies, and in real life, the Charger was massively faster than the Mustang, so let's all agree to just skip that one. Really, those are the two arguments for the film. 1) It (the Chase, not the movie) was revolutionary, 2) It was (sort of) real. That one applicable thing is simply not enough of a reason for Ford to still be releasing Bullitt edition Mustangs in 2019. They need to stop. Yes, Bullitt was important to American cinema, but the operative word there is was, not important. We should all be able to enjoy modern things and understand their lineage while not having to suffer through some apocryphal background explanation. The modern Mustang is good enough on its own. The color dark green is good enough on its own. Some old and long forgotten movie need not be involved.
Ford's new special edition Mustang would be no different at all if they called it the Midnight edition, or the Black Forest edition. It would still be, you know, green, and that's really all that's different. When a pop culture icon reaches the phase where it's contributions to the culture at large far exceed the memory of the icon itself, then it's time to put the reference out to pasture in the Old Yeller style. That's exactly where we are today. Nobody cares to talk about Bullitt, because it's agonizing to watch, and it's agonizing to hear people talk about it. It's enough already. We're done. Move on. I'm sick of talking about it, and I'm writing this.
Respect can be paid to the past while leaving the past in the past. The previous sentence makes sense, and I'm going to illustrate it by using the Dodge Charger. The Dodge Charger was the Other car in the film Bullitt. It was driven by the Bad Guys, probably. Like every other person in the world I've never seen the movie, just the very long car chase. They blow up at the end, so I'm assuming they're the bad guys. But anyways, you can buy a Charger today. It's still around. It has evolved into a four door sedan, the suburban cousin of the Challenger. Dodge brought the Charger back in 2006, and since then, they've never done a Bullitt special edition, because why the hell would they? There is no reason to make that a special edition. Remember that the second generation Dodge Charger is far more iconic on film than the Mustang, starring in Bullitt as well as Vanishing Point and The Dukes Of Hazzard, so you'd think that if a company was going to make special editions based on corny film trivia, it would be Dodge. But the nameplate alone carries the memory of the car's history, not some stupid shade of paint, or a white shifter knob, and for all their faults Dodge has recognized this with the Charger. I'm not here to fool around with anybody swinging the argument that "The Charger is too different durr, it's got four doors now", or any of that nonsense. The 2019 Charger will be no closer to or further away from its 1968 counterpart than the 2019 Mustang will be. That's all down to the advancements of automotive technology, and door count matters so little in that massive scope that it isn't even worth discussing.
But everything I've said doesn't matter at all. I'll even tell you why: In car culture, there is a cottage industry for masturbatory nostalgizing. No, more than a cottage industry, a multi-million, possibly billion-dollar industry. Seriously, there's more jerking in car culture than there is on Omegle. Look at Mecum. Just take a few minutes to look at what they're selling. If some Bullitt replica 1968 Mustang popped up on there, it would sell for a lot of money. Or, how about this one: In January of this year, the actual Bullitt Mustang, the last surviving real and actual car from the film just kind of...re-appeared, having last been seen in a 1990 Mustang Illustrated magazine article. The car itself has a storied history, it went from movie car to daily driver to garage queen. It went from San Francisco to New Jersey to Kentucky to Tennessee. Steve McQueen himself tried to buy it back before he died, but the owner wouldn't sell. Ford managed to dredge the thing up for their announcement of the 2019 Bullitt edition Mustang, and The Old Heads were weirdly excited about it, forcing their children to watch Bullitt ,and squalling about how it's the best movie ever made when none of them had watched it since Ford last pinched off one of these pointless special editions in 2001.
There is a shocking and strange fetishization of McQueen in car culture, both American and international. All you need to do is shout his name at the next car show you go to and half the crowd will spontaneously climax. I have no idea why. What I do know is that anything connected to him rakes in the dough at auctions exactly like Mecum. For example, a 1970 Porsche S from McQueen's movie Le Mans (I've never heard of it either) sold for $1.38 million dollars in 2011, 19 times more than the expected value. 19 times! The CEO of Hagerty, a company specializing in classic car insurance, has said he would imagine the original Bullitt Mustang to be worth more than $4 million, while the average "Good" condition '68 Mustang is valued at about $20,000. I'd bet he's even guessing low on that one. All of this money, all of this hype thrown at a film, and at the memory of a man, which are both almost completely disconnected from modern car culture. They are certainly disconnected from what car culture needs to become. We don't need to sit around jerking it to things that don't make sense any more, at memories of the ghosts our grandparents told us about. We can try some new things in car culture, we can blaze some new trails, and not just in Jeeps.
To close, I'll say this: Thank god Ford managed to find that original Bullitt Mustang. It's a good thing they did, because there's no way in hell that 2019 special edition would make even a teeny bit of sense without the genuine article sitting right next to it. Ford has played this Bullitt thing out to the point where the name doesn't even mean anything. It isn't impactful, and I don't believe it's desirable. In short, the whole exercise has been made pointless. While I do understand that people will buy this 2019 Bullitt edition in the dear and desperate hope that it appreciates in value and sells on Mecum for a billion, I can only hope that if it does appreciate, it has nothing to do with the name Bullitt, because we're all done with that trash. We're moving on from it. And, if it hasn't become clear yet, that's my image for the podcast, that's what I want to try to do. I don't want to make the same jokes Jalopnik did, does, and will do (they're the same jokes). I don't want to be Car and Driver or Automobile. I don't want to be Top Gear or The Grand Tour or Fifth Gear or whatever idiot car shit the Discovery Channel is putting on right now. I want us to be different, and hopefully, that's already the kind of content we're putting out. We've laid the groundwork, we've proven our bonafides with all the twists we could create. Now we've covered the basic stuff, and that makes us free. I want to change the way we talk about cars in modern culture. I want us to strip away the pointless weight of brand allegiances and old references. I want us to change the discourse in car culture so that it's healthier, more honest, more real, and more fun. I'm not saying we'll be perfect, we've already failed a lot in pursuit of these goals. But I can promise that I'll always keep trying, and I believe Nick and Tristan will try along with me.
That's a little twist of an ending, yeah? Even surprised myself a little. But I'm happy with it. Thanks for reading, thanks for supporting, and thanks for coming with us as we do our best to grow the brand.