The mystery continues. And also the tears.
The 1968 Ford Mustang Bullitt GT driven by Steve McQueen in the legendary Hollywood action movie of the same name emerged at the international celebration after being hidden in a family’s garage for 40 years.
Now, after touring the United States and the world for two years, the pony car was sold to an anonymous bidder for a record $ 3.4 million – $ 3.74 million after commissions and fees.
“Only one person knows the buyer, and that’s the guy he was talking to on the phone,” said Sean Kiernan, who put his father’s beloved Highland Green Mustang in the auction block in Kissimmee, Florida, on Friday. “Eventually, it will come to light. But right now, nobody knows. Just Frank. Frank is the only one to know.”
Frank as in Frank Mecum of Mecum Auctions, host of the world famous event.
“It was like an 11-minute rock concert,” said Kiernan, 38, automotive paint manager from Hendersonville, Tennessee. “I lost my place a little. I wasn’t paying attention to the offers. I was just looking at people. I think the crowd must have been around 7,000 people.”
He explained Sunday night that he had an auction offer that started at just $ 3,500 because that was what his father paid for the vehicle in 1974.
“When the auctioneer asked: ‘Who will give me $ 3,500?’ Everyone in the room raised their hands. Everyone had the opportunity to bid for the car, “said Kiernan, who had just arrived home after driving through wind and rain storms in a 37-foot recreational vehicle after two weeks away preparing for the auction “That’s what I’ll remember.”
The New Jersey detective who sold the car to Robert Kiernan, then a 26-year-old insurance executive, said Kiernan was the only person who responded to the Road & Track magazine ad promoting a connection to the McQueen movie “with documentation.” .
McQueen filmed some of the chase scenes in the Warner Bros. classic that shows a policeman chasing gunmen through the hills of San Francisco. Real speed Real shocks Real point of view of the driver.
With the public presentation of the vehicle in 2018 at the Detroit motor show, Mark Gessler, president of the Historic Vehicles Association, told Free Press: “This is probably the Holy Grail if there is one. It is one of the most important artifacts. of the 20th century in terms of automobile history. It is a national cultural treasure. “
This month’s sale broke a Mustang auction record held by a 1967 Shelby GT500 Super Snake that sold for $ 2.2 million at Kissimmee in 2019. The historic “muscle” record is held by a convertible Plymouth Hemi ‘Cuda of 1971 that sold for a “hammer price” of $ 3.5 million (or $ 3.7 million with fees) in 2014.
But this is not just a story about money.
This is a story about a painting seller whose life and family were forever changed by a car. And when his wife had a scary health scare, he reflected on what everything means.
Daughters born in Bullitt years
After three years of trying to have a third child and finally achieve in vitro fertilization, Sean Kiernan decided that he wanted to sell dear Mustang and dedicate himself to cutting the hay on the farm for his horses, spending time with his wife, Samantha, and daughters. Katelyn, Brooklyn and Summer, all were born by coincidence in the years in which Ford presented each new version of the Bullitt: 2001, 2008 and 2019.
“It was not planned. It just happened,” Kiernan said, adding that the most recent pregnancy changed the way they saw the world and its priorities.
“Sam just wasn’t healthy. He had extremely severe endometriosis. That was a big part of our decision to sell the car. He underwent emergency surgery … We wanted to tell our family’s story with the car, but now I want to play on the ground during the day and playing with cars at night, both with my daughters. Just take care of my property and cut the hay. That’s what I love to do. “
Before selling the Mustang, he brought it home in October for his mother’s birthday and put it in the garage where the car had been hidden for four decades.
“I had never prepared the car to sell it, so I changed all the fluids and did everything related to the car,” Kiernan said. “My sister, my mother, my wife, Sam’s father got off Dearborn and they sat in the car. That car had been in the garage forever. It was his place. I think everyone cried at some time or another.”
Everyone said goodbye.
Her mother, Robbie, had driven the Bullitt Mustang back to the parish of St. Vincent, where she taught third grade. Her husband took a train to work in New York City. This month, Robbie Kiernan went to the auction with his 7-week-old grandson.
2 Mustangs in Steve McQueen’s movie
The whole family went down to Florida together. After traveling with the car to so many shows, this would be the last trip. They were ready
Placing the car at LeMay, the United States Automobile Museum in Tacoma, Washington, for six months had been a trial separation, he said. “We basically wanted to see if we could handle it not being there. Emotionally I had to see if I could do it.”
The car had been in the family garage, silently waiting for the 50th anniversary of the film in 2018. Robert Kiernan died in 2014 and left a grieving son to grab his collection car.
“We kept it a secret in the family for so long, hiding in plain sight,” Sean Kiernan told Free Press in January 2018. “We hope to restore it, but then my father contracted Parkinson’s and I had my first daughter and my life.” was going on.”
He continued: “The thing is that everyone wants to honor their father. Me and he were more best friends than father and son. He was lost when he died. This is a great moment. For our family, it’s almost like an ending. “
Two identical 1968 Mustang GT fastbacks were used in the film, which premiered on October 17, 1968. One went to a salvage depot and the other was sold by the studio to a private buyer and finally ended up in Kiernan’s garage. . For the public, the vehicle was lost.
Until Sean Kiernan arrived in Detroit.
Passions for the car have increased throughout the automotive community.
“The Bullitt Mustang has left an indelible mark on international car culture through its role in film history. To this day, the 10-minute visceral chase in the movie ‘Bullitt’ remains one of the most exciting never captured in the movie, “said Diane Parker, vice president of the Historic Vehicle Association based in Allentown, Pennsylvania.
When the car debuted at Cobo Center in Detroit, television news teams from France, Japan, China, Norway, Italy and Mexico rushed to capture images of the iconic vehicle. At that time, McKeel Hagerty, CEO of the world’s largest classic car insurer and founder of the Historic Vehicle Association, said: “It’s not common in life when you run into a Mona Lisa lost in a garage somewhere. That’s what it is. It’s a Mona Lisa car. “
After the auction, Hagerty issued a public statement: “The Bullitt Mustang has it all: a great chase scene, the McQueen connection and a fantastic backstory. The fact that it had disappeared for decades, only to resurface as a car of film without restoring the time capsule is something we will probably never see again in our lives. “
Contact Phoebe Wall Howard: 313-222-6512 or[email protected].Follow her on Twitter@phoebesaid.