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Ford Mustang Bullitt GT (2001)

SEE ALSO: Ford Buyer's Guide

by Carey Russ

In the two years since the Ford Mustang was restyled and received engine and chassis enhancements for its 35th anniversary, it has had only minor changes. It really hasn't needed any major revisions. But, it seems that something must always be done to keep a name, even one as well-known as Mustang, in they public eye. That something was hinted at when the Mustang "Bullitt" concept car was introduced at the 2000 Los Angeles Auto Show. It was such a success that a special Bullitt version of the 2001 Mustang GT is now available.

A little background may be in order. "Bullitt" was a 1968 Warner Bros. movie starring Steve McQueen as San Francisco detective Frank Bullitt. In the movie, McQueen drove a dark green 1968 Mustang GT. The movie contains one of the most classic "kids-don't-try-this-at-home" movie car chase scenes, with McQueen in the Mustang chasing the bad guys through the streets and over the hills of San Francisco. While it's not on the top-ten-ever list of too many film critics, "Bullitt" is a cult classic among performance enthusiasts, a group with plenty of possibility for Mustang ownership. Ford is tapping into this potential customer pool with the Mustang Bullitt.

Like Frank Bullitt's Mustang, the limited-production 2001 Bullitt edition is based on the Mustang GT. But, even though they share a front engine / rear-wheel drive chassis layout and an independent front / solid axle rear suspension design, the 2001 Mustang GT is a very different car than a 1968 Mustang GT. The '68 got its power from cubic inches, 390 of them. The 2001 model has Ford's 4.6-liter (281 cubic inch) single overhead cam V8. The Bullitt has special engine and chassis tweaks, for a little more power and sportier handling. It also has subtly unique styling touches outside and special interior enhancements. About 6,500 2001 Mustang Bullitts will be made, at a $3,695 premium over the base Mustang GT price.

I've spent the past week driving example number 20. It's been fun, to say the least, offering all of what's good about the contemporary Mustang and a just a little bit more. The production run isn't all that small, so many Bullitts will actually be driven instead of being instantly secluded in some collector's hermetically-sealed vault, which is good because it is definitely a car to be driven.

APPEARANCE: The Mustang Bullitt is offered in "Dark Highland Green," "True Blue," and black. The green is a close match to the color of the movie car, and its five-spoke alloy wheels are a modern interpretation of the classic late-'60s "mag" wheels on the movie car. A large (non-functional) hood scoop is the most apparent difference from a regular Mustang GT, but the side trim and rocker panels are also different. A brushed-aluminum gas cap is unique to the Bullitt, as are the red brake calipers. A small "Bullitt" badge is found on the rear panel.

COMFORT: The Bullitt may pay homage to the past in name, but its interior is contemporary. It enhances the standard Mustang with competition drilled-look control pedals, an aluminum trim ring around the gearshift boot, and an aluminum shift knob. The "Bullitt" logo is found on the door sill plates. Perforated leather upholstery is part of the package, with front sport buckets and a rear bench. Like in all 2001 Mustangs, a new center console has larger cupholders and a power point. A six-CD in-dash changer is available with the Mach 460 sound system. Front seat room is good. Remember that this is a sport coupe, not a family sedan - the rear seat is best for smaller people for short distances. Its back folds for extra trunk space when needed, making any 2001 Mustang as functional as it is fun.

SAFETY: The 2001 Mustang Bullitt GT has all of the required and expected safety equipment, and excellent four-wheel vented disc brakes so you don't have to discover the passive safety equipment the hard way.

ROADABILITY: The Mustang's raw-boned all-American muscle car character has been toned down a little since the late 1960s, but no one will mistake the 2001 Mustang Bullitt for a high-dollar European luxury car. Hey, it's a Mustang! Still, it's a long way from its ancestors of thirty-plus years ago. The power steering feels a little overassisted at low speeds, but the Goodyear Eagle ZR45 P245/45 ZR17 tires help give it good turn-in characteristics and have far more grip than the primitive tires on Frank Bullitt's '68 Mustang. Thirteen-inch vented front Brembo discs (slightly smaller at the rear) and high-performance calipers make it stop, now! Don't even compare them with the disc/drum setup on Frank's GT. Good rear axle location and revalved Tokico shocks matched to the spring and stabilizer bar rates give it very good handling characteristics for a solid rear axle car, and, while the ride is pretty firm, it is not at all punishing. You don't have to be a Mustang fanatic to like this puppy.

PERFORMANCE: The Bullitt's 4.6-liter single overhead cam V8 is not quite the same as that found in regular Mustang GTs. It benefits from an enlarged twin-bore throttle body, aluminum intake manifold, and high-flow mufflers to make a little more power than the standard GT. Ford claims 265 horsepower (versus 260) and "significantly more" torque than the GT's 302 lb-ft. Unlike the old 5.0 pushrod engine or the venerable 390, but like the regular GT engine, it needs to be revved for serious power production. The basso profundo exhaust music serves to save driver's licenses - it's loud enough to make it seem that the car's speed is faster than it really is, not necessarily a bad thing if you don't care to be on a first-name basis with the local authorities. Linkage to the five-speed manual gearbox is wonderful, and makes shifting a pleasure. But wear gloves, the aluminum shift knob can be pretty toasty on a hot day.

CONCLUSIONS: The limited-edition 2001 Mustang Bullitt GT is fast, fun, and exclusive, and should be a future collectible.

2001 Ford Mustang Bullitt GT

Base Price              $ 26,230
Price As Tested         $ 27,380
Engine Type             single overhead cam 16-valve V8
Engine Size             4.6 liters / 281 cu. in.
Horsepower              265 @ n/a rpm
Torque (lb-ft)          n/a
Transmission            5-speed manual
Wheelbase / Length      101.3 in. / 183.2 in.
Curb Weight             est. 3250 lbs.
Pounds Per Horsepower   12.26
Fuel Capacity           15.7 gal.
Fuel Requirement        unleaded regular, 87 octane
Tires                   P245/45 ZR17 Goodyear Eagle ZR45
Brakes, front/rear      vented disc / vented disc
Suspension, front/rear  independent modified MacPherson strut /
                          solid axle with 4-link location and coil 
Drivetrain              front engine, rear-wheel drive

EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon
    city / highway / observed      n/a
0 to 60 mph            est. 5.5  sec

Mach 460 sound system with 6-CD changer   $ 550
Destination charge                        $ 600