Aging movie star takes center stage once more

  • Photos Courtesy of Mecum Auctions

  • Kelly Cotton, whose parents purchased the car in 1974, talks with an eagar spectator. Below, people gather around to photogragh the Mustang, which in 2018 became the 21st vehicle named to the National Historic Vehicle Register by the Historic Vehicle Association.

    Kelly Cotton, whose parents purchased the car in 1974, talks with an eagar spectator. Below, people gather around to photogragh the Mustang, which in 2018 became the 21st vehicle named to the National Historic Vehicle Register by the Historic Vehicle Association.

  • Sean Kiernan and his sister, Kelly Cotton, ride in "Bullitt" as it is rolled up to the auction block recently in Kissimmee, Florida. Their parents bought the Mustang in 1974.

    Sean Kiernan and his sister, Kelly Cotton, ride in "Bullitt" as it is rolled up to the auction block recently in Kissimmee, Florida. Their parents bought the Mustang in 1974.

  • The Kissimmee, Florida, auction crowd.

    The Kissimmee, Florida, auction crowd.

  • Kiernan is all smiles just before selling his father's beloved Ford. When the hammer came down, "Bullitt" became the most valuable Mustang in history.Car club calendar

    Kiernan is all smiles just before selling his father's beloved Ford. When the hammer came down, "Bullitt" became the most valuable Mustang in history.Car club calendar

 
 
Posted1/22/2020 12:06 PM

KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- We've already seen the Bullitt Mustang leap through the streets of San Francisco, but now it's jumped into the pages of history.

At Mecum's annual Kissimmee, Florida, auction, the 1968 Highland Green fastback sold for $3.4 million -- $3.74 million including auction fees. That makes it the most expensive Ford Mustang in the world.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The pricey pony, one of only two remaining from the filming of Steve McQueen's movie of the same name, has been with the same family since 1974, entirely out of the limelight. That all changed after a grand debut to the public at the 2018 Detroit Auto Show.

After a whirlwind exhibition tour in 2019, the Mustang made its way to the auction block earlier this month where star-struck thousands gathered to watch the spectacle. Consignor Sean Kiernan opened the bidding at $3,500 -- the price his dad, Robert Kiernan, paid decades ago.

The family acquired the Ford from a New Jersey police officer, who placed an ad in the October 1974 issue of Road & Track magazine. Robert Kiernan was the only one who inquired, his son told reporters several years ago.

The vehicle was driven by McQueen for many of the shots in the movie's unforgettable car chase, screeching around the streets of San Francisco. It still retains its camera mounts welded into the car for various close-ups.

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Another Bullitt Mustang from the movie was discovered in Mexico, but it was used to film jumps and was not driven by McQueen on screen.

By the time his father parked the car in a garage in 1981, he had put 46,000 miles on it. Sean Kiernan and his dad talked about getting it running again as a father-and-son project before Robert Kiernan became ill.
By the time his father parked the car in a garage in 1981, he had put 46,000 miles on it. Sean Kiernan and his dad talked about getting it running again as a father-and-son project before Robert Kiernan became ill. -

Sean Kiernan and his sister, Kelly Cotton, drove the Bullitt across the auction block. Their father, who initially used the car as his daily driver, later suffered from Parkinson's disease and died in 2014.

"She was built for this from the beginning -- the mobs and the crowd," said Sean, speaking of the family's beloved Ford. "I get to sit behind the wheel but the car is the star."

• Share your car's story with Matt at auto@dailyherald.com.

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