Happy New Year to all of you! In preparation for the sale of Steve McQueen’s Bullitt Mustang at Mecum’s Kissimmee sale next week, I thought I would do a deep, deep dive into the data to ballpark what I think it will sell for. I will calculate the “Steve McQueen Multiplier”, I’ll review the highest selling Mustangs, Shelbys and famous movie cars of all time AND other ICONIC items of note. All data is sourced from Sports Car Market’s Platinum database, Hagerty’s Valuation Tools and the website links in my blog which you can find at www.TheCollectorCarPodcast.com.
Steve McQueen famously drove this Dark Highland Green GT 390 fastback in the most famous car chase scene ever in a movie. It has been called the greatest car chase by BBCAmerica, Popular Mechanics, Fandango, NAPA, CNN, and Reader’s Digest. Two Mustangs were used and it has long been thought that one was crushed after filming that the hero car was hidden in a barn in Kentucky. About ten years ago, I made a half-hearted attempt to find it with no luck. It turns out that both survived and the “crushed” car was discovered in Mexico as it was being restored into an Elenore Shelby clone and it is currently being restored. The Mecum car is the “Hero Car” and unrestored and it came out of hiding a few years ago and has been making a world tour. It was the 21st car listed on the History Vehicle Register. For reference, the other movie cars on the Register include the Tucker and the fake Ferrari from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.
Hot Rod article, The Long-Lost “Crushed” Bullitt Stunt Car was Found in Mexico
To put into perspective how epic of a car this is, I’m going to quote a few folks. The first is a Bloomberg article by Hannah Elliot.
“Bullitt is effectively a one-of-one example touched with the golden blessing of car culture’s most important god; it has transcended into pop culture with few direct comparisons from which to predict a sale price. Which means that how much it actually sells for next month is anyone’s guess. Dana Mecum has said Bullitt will sell for at least $3 million; a recent Hagerty magazine article said it will be at least $4 million; Klinger himself said he expects it could take nearer to $5 million.”
The article continues with a quote from Sam Murtaugh who is Mecum’s vice president of marketing.
“A movie car always has a multiple applied to it,” says Murtaugh. “When you add the Steve McQueen factor, that multiple effect goes up exponentially. It varies depending on the item whether it’s a motorcycle or a car he used to own, but with Bullitt being in a movie and driven by McQueen, you’ve got a double-multiple going on, and with McQueen it has always been a multiplier of 10x or 15x.”
We will see in a moment if Steve McQueen cars truly sell 10 to 15 times their value. The Mustang is not being sold at one of the high-end auctions which is interesting. I would have chosen to sell it during Monterey Car Week hoping two billionaires get into a bidding war. But, anyone who has interest in this car will be paying attention no matter where or when it is being sold. And it is being sold at no reserve because the current owner, Sean Kiernan, does not want to go through this process again.
Hagerty also had some interesting quotes about the Mustang.
“Estimating the value of an iconic car like the Bullitt Mustang can be difficult since it’s impossible to know just how much someone is willing to pay for a car that is so ingrained in American pop culture and has never been at auction before—particularly one that was driven by “The King of Cool” in arguably the greatest car chase in movie history. Certainly that number will be in the millions.
“There really is no other car to which it can be compared,” says automotive expert and author Colin Comer. (Who is author of one of my favorite boos, The Complete Book of Shelby Automobiles) “When you put everything together—a cultural icon, connected to a movie legend, and it’s a Mustang—it really stands alone. Then you consider that most people thought it was long gone, destroyed, it was amazing enough when it came out of hiding 18 months ago in near-original condition. Now, for someone to actually have an opportunity to own it for themselves—a car that McQueen couldn't even buy—this is an unprecedented historic event.”
Steve McQueen famously tried to get this Mustang back in 1977 by sending a letter to the owner. This is a great example of how not to endear yourself with someone who has something you want. It read,
“Dear Mr. Kiernan,
Again, (horrible way to start a letter) I would like to appeal to you to get back my ’68 Mustang. I would like very much to keep it in the family in its original condition as it was used in the film, rather than have it restored; which is simply personal with me. (he’s doing ok…)
I would be happy to try (no guarantees, I will at least make a phone call) to find you another Mustang similar to the one you have, if there is not too much monies involved in it (this should have never been written!). Otherwise, we had better forget it. (you closed the deal but in the wrong way!)
With kindest regards, I remain very truly yours, Steve McQueen”
I am going to do the impossible and make a very educated guess on what the Bullitt Mustang will sell for by analyzing six data sets: current Muscle Car trends, valuation of a “non-Bullitt” 1968 390 GT Mustang, the top selling Mustangs and Shelbys of all time, recent sales results of movie cars, calculating and applying the Steve McQueen Multiplier and reviewing a few Iconic items that have sold recently. I’ll then throw all of this data into my algonkculator to come up with my estimated hammer price…also know as my best guess.
Current Muscle Car Market Trends and Valuation for a 1969 Ford Mustang GT 390 Fastback
Andres Newton, author of the Hagerty Price Guide Index of America Muscle Cars stated that, “Of Hagerty’s seven primary collector car indices, the Muscle Car Index experienced by far the largest drop in the latest update with an 8 percent fall. In fact, it was the only index to move more than 2 percent in either direction. No component cars recorded a gain and nearly half of them fell in value.
While all of the Chevrolets in the Muscle Car Index saw drops, the Mopars saw bigger ones. The 1970 Cuda AAR dropped 18 percent and the 1970 Hemi Cuda convertible, among the most valuable of all muscle cars, fell 13 percent. None of this is cause for panic, however, as most of the significant decreases in the muscle car market both inside and outside of this index are for the most expensive cars. Most prices in the broader muscle car market are firm, and the most popular models’ popularity among younger enthusiasts should at least keep them that way.”
- Andrew Newton, September 2019
Of the 15 cars represented the biggest depreciator was the 1970 Hemi Cuda convertible took a $700k hit (#1).
It peaked at $3M in January 2016 and now is $2.3M which is a 23.3% decline. From May to Sept it was down $150,000…-10.3%. If you look at just the Mustangs represented in the Index (’65 GT350, ’68 GT500KR, ’69 Boss 429), they were only down 0.5% for the same timeframe.
The real Bullitt Mustang is unrestored and shows surface rust, dents dings and other flaws from being thrown around the San Francisco street in the movie and additional 50 years of time. Hagerty describes “#4 vehicles are daily drivers, with flaws visible to the naked eye. The chrome might have pitting or scratches, the windshield might be chipped. Paintwork is imperfect, and perhaps the body has a minor dent. Split seams or a cracked dash, where applicable, might be present. No major parts are missing, but the wheels could differ from the originals, or other non- stock additions might be present. A #4 vehicle can also be a deteriorated restoration. "Fair" is the one word that describes a #4 vehicle” The Bullitt Mustang falls off of the Hagerty chart and is a #5 car. Currently, the average value for an everyday 1968 390 GT Mustang fastback with a factory four speed is…
I place the value of the Bullitt Mustang without its movie provenance or Steve McQueen ownership at $35,000. Keep this in mind for when I factor in the McQueen Multiplier in a minute. A bit of good news, 1968 Mustangs are up 5.0% from January to September of 2019 which goes against overall muscle car trends.
Top Selling Mustangs and Shelbys of All Time
Now it is time to review the top selling Mustangs and Shelbys of all time. The top selling Mustangs are:
1969 Boss 429s are down 12% from their May 2017 peak. The top selling Shelbys are:
This is interesting information but not much that will help us on evaluating the price of the Bullitt Mustang. The closest would be the Super Snake as it is one-of-one with strong provenance and unrestored. But it is a factory car, in much better shape and the best looking Shelby of the 1960s in my opinion. The fact that it almost doubled in price in six years speaks to the desire of collectors wanting automotive unicorns as the centerpiece of their collection. The Bullitt Mustang would be one of these.
Recent Movie Cars
Now I will review some movie cars that have recently sold and compare them to their non-celebrity counterparts. We will call this the “movie star factor”. I’m only going to pick eight cars that I feel are most applicable to the Bullitt Mustang which is a great car in a mediocre movie.
1968 Ford Gulf GT40 From Le Mans - $11 Million
1961 Ferrari 250 GT California Spider From Ferris Bueller's Day Off - $10.9 Million
1965 Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupe From Red Line 7000 - $7.6 Million
1956 Ferrari 250 GT LWB Berlinetta From The Love Bug - $6.7 Million
1966 Batmobile From Batman The Movie - $4.6 Million
1964 Aston Martin DB5 From Goldfinger & Thunderball - $4.6 Million
1969 Porsche 908.02 ‘Flunder’ Langheck Group 6 Prototype From Le Mans - $2.7 Million
1955 Ferrari 750 Monza Spider From On The Beach - $2.5 Million
1929 Duesenberg Model J Disappearing-Top Convertible Coupe From The Gay Divorcee - $2.3 Million
1970 Porsche 911 S From Le Mans - $1.3 Million
1965 Shelby Mustang GT500 From Gone In 60 Seconds - $1 Million
1969 Dodge Charger Daytona From Joe Dirt - $900,000
DeLorean DMC-12 From Back To The Future - $541,000
1970 Plymouth Barracuda From Nash Bridges - $151,200
1986 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am From Knight Rider - $150,000
1963 Volkswagen Beetle From The Love Bug (Herbie) - $126,500
1959 Cadillac Miller-Meteor ECTO-1 From Ghostbusters - $88,000
1972 Oldsmobile 442 From Sopranos - $61,000
The Movie Multiplier for all of these cars is only 4.9x. If we based the Bullitt Mustang on this multiplier it would sell for $172,710.39. This is not going to happen!
The Steve McQueen Multipler
Now let’s review the Steve McQueen Multiplier. Over his career McQueen owned many collector cars and I’ve tracked down 25 of them. Some of these were cars in the movies he was filming and he liked them so much purchased them once filming was complete. He also owned a lot of motorcycles but this is called The Collector Car Podcast, I will not review those. To calculate the McQueen Multiplier, I will only use the cars that were sold at a public auction and calculate the hammer price against the value of the car at the time of the auction. I will use Hagerty’s Valuation Guide and condition rating. The first 13 cars I will list are ones from his collection that are not a part of the multiplier as they have either never sold at auction or there are no comps for comparison. These 13 cars are:
Now for the 12 cars that have sold at auction that were used to calculate the McQueen Mulitplier
I’ve always heard that the McQueen Multiplier was 10 to 15 times the fair market value. But that is not correct. Based on these 12 cars, the McQueen Multiplier is 4.97. Based on this, we can do some quick math and multiply this by the average value of a #5 condition 1968 GT390 Mustang Fastback. That would equal… $174,068.47. Again, that is not going to happen! It is really interesting that both the McQueen and Movie Multipliers were almost the same. Why are these multipliers not applicable for the Bullitt Mustang? This is an easy answer, none of these cars have the “Bullitt Effect”.
Items from the movie have a track record for selling for astronomical amounts. McQueen’s original script sold for $44,000. His, at the time $25, Persol sunglass sold for over $70k and his brown tweed sportscoat from the movie sold for $120,000!
I realized I needed to look elsewhere for comps to help me come up with a realistic number. I decided to look at a few Iconic Items that have sold recently.
The Iconic Multiplier is 33.3x so the Bullitt Mustang would sell for $1,167,206.45.
What do all of this data not factor? The disposable income of prospective buyers. There is a big generation shift occurring right now in the collector car marketplace. Read any magazine or blog article and you will see many articles written about this. Including my own reviews which you can find on my website or anywhere podcast are found. While the shift is away from cars from the 1940s, 50s and 60s and to the 80s and the 90s, I believe this car will buck the trend.
The Bullitt movie was release in 1968 and this Mustang become the icon of every teen and pre-teen. Today, those kids are in the prime of their disposable income lives. They are retired, empty nesters who are enjoying their post career lifestyle and want to have fun. This is their moment to get the jewel for their collection and they will bid up for it. Because of this, I am going to call the final hammer price for the Bullitt Mustang at $5.6M. This is a 160x multiplier that will break all of the records. It will be the most expensive Mustang ever sold at auction and have the highest McQueen or Movie Multiplier ever.
It is an unrepeatable event and you can join me in two weeks to my thoughts on the results and how close or how far off I was in my guess. Until then, keep your tires straight, your foot on the gas and eyes on the road!
Greg draws, talks, vlogs, blogs, writes, evaluates, judges, appraises, video tapes and consumes all things automotive. He even regurgitates useless car facts, stories, pictures and shares cool car places he's visited recently if you give him a chance.