Jim’s Blog: What’s McQueen’s Mustang Worth?

By now you’ve probably seen the news that the Bullitt Mustang is heading to auction at Mecum Kissimmee in a few weeks. 

The car, VIN 8R02S125559, is a 1968 Mustang GT 390. It’s Highland Green, fitted with a 4-speed, and still looks just as it did when it tore up the streets of San Francisco while trying to lose that black ’68 Charger. It’s basically untouched from its movie look after a long life with the 3rd owner’s family.

There’s been a lot of talk about what this car might be worth, and that’s a really hard question to answer for a couple of reasons.

The McQueen factor, as we’ve come to call it here at ACC HQ, has applied to a bunch of things McQueen once owned, and it usually applies a hefty premium for that provenance. For example, one of the more recent sales was a 1953 Hudson Hornet sedan that made $165,000 at RM Auctions’ Fort Lauderdale event. McQueen’s 1949 Chevrolet 3100 pickup also brought $95,200 at Bonhams just a few months later. Nice cars, both of them, but expensive compared to their non-McQueen counterparts. 

Take that truck, for example. The current ACC median valuation for an Advance Design Chevrolet is $31,900. McQueen’s name brought 3x bump over the median in that case.

For the Hornet, it was a 5x bump.

So what does all this mean for this Mustang? Can you do the math and add in a percentage boost over the current median and expect it to be in the ballpark for value? Nope, and here’s why.

Today’s median for your everyday big-block Mustang fastback is $58,200. If we follow the 3x bump as outlined with the truck, you might expect the price to be $174,600. With a 5x bump. as we saw with the Husdon, we’d be looking at something more like $300k. Both are well short of the mark. Even if you toss out the notion of a median value and apply a premium to the highest sale on record, it’s still off from what I think this car will do at auction.

None of that math works because we’re dealing with more than just a basic McQueen car here. This is THE icon — many car people will tell you that this is the one McQueen item to end all McQueen items. This Mustang is Americana, car culture, star power, barn finds, and performance all wrapped into one Highland Green lot. Ford made several special runs of later cars because of this thing. Car guys still watch “Bullitt” (a not so great film if we’re being honest) just for the chase this car performed. This is the stuff of legend.

If you want to get closer in terms of value, consider the Persol sunglasses McQueen reportedly worn in “The Thomas Crown Affair.” They sold for $70,200 back in 2006. Similar vintage sunglasses without star power sell for around $2k these days. Think about that for a second.

This Mustang is going to be expensive. Really expensive. And to the buyer it’ll be worth it.

Just how expensive is anyone’s guess — and it really comes down to who is in the room and how badly they want to make the legend a part of their life. But suffice to say, we’ll be talking about this car a lot more in the coming weeks, and I expect it will be in terms of a big-dollar justification.

What do you think it will bring? Let’s talk about it in the comments below.

 

Image: Mecum Auctions

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  1. In 1967-68 I owned a 1967 Mustang fastback 390, 4-speed with the same American Mags and green paint except with 2 wide white stripes hood to trunk. I cavorted all over Los Angeles( Sunset, Van Nuys, Mulholland etc) before the movie came out and think they probably saw my car and thought they should use that in their film. At least I like to believe that. So the Bullitt Mustang has special meaning to me. Wish I still had mine. Russ Jones, Santa Barbara, Ca

  2. I think the McQueen factor will be overshadowed by the Bullitt factor. Way too many people have no idea who McQueen was. But car folks know the Bullitt movie as the ultimate car chase pre-CGI. I’m guessing it will hover around 3 million

  3. Well I’m thinking if the Shelby’s personal Super Snake brought, I’m thinking 5 Million a few years ago as a 1 of 2, then I’m guessing that because McQueen is cooler than Shelby, I’ll start at 5 million. Yeah that’s stupid money for any car, but after all, this is the Bullitt Mustang… I’ll be watching for sure and I’m a Corvette guy.

  4. I have to feel that the Bullitt Mustang is unquestionably the most iconic vehicle in movie history. It’s chase scene set the standard by which all movie chase scenes are measure by. In today’s CGI world of movie making, it still has a look and feel that just can’t be duplicated. With all this figured in the mix along with the entire back story, the bidding should reach a new high paid for a Mustang!!
    I will have to disagree with your assessment of the film itself not being all that good. I have watch this movie many times over the last 50+ years and feel it is a very entertaining movie in many ways. A few thoughts:
    -Steve McQueen is still mentioned on a regular basis as a men’s style icon and this movie defines that style most clearly. It’s minimalist but also this is someone not playing the middle class America game.
    – He’s not climbing the corporate ladder. On this case, he doesn’t give a thought to politics.
    – His car, the most famous in any movie ever, is a low key color not candy apple bright. It’s a Mustang, a symbol of blue collar America. It’s dusty and he parks it in the street, not a garage. He doesn’t inspect it for door dings every time he gets out of it. It has dents in it. You get the impression he doesn’t spend his free time polishing it.
    – He doesn’t spend time chasing money or power. He spends it on his job, trying to do what’s right.
    – The movie gives off a great 60’s vibe in so many ways, fashion, music, scenery.
    In summery, McQueen’s personal style in this movie is not just stoicism or minimalism, it is the old fashion American values (think Old West). Just something to take in as you watch one of my all time favorite movies next time.

  5. Jim, a few years ago I was in Tucson, AZ and my buddy and I were getting a few cars ready for Barrett Jackson to include a 65 Dart GT. A friend suggested a guy that lived way out on the south side of town to do the seats for us. No one knew how to get to his house, therefore he came and met us.
    We followed him down a few dirt roads and up a steep dirt driveway and at the end was the nicest 68 charger I have ever seen. Maybe the nicest MOPAR I had seen outside of the Wellborn Museum.
    It was a triple black 68 charger even had the factory hubcaps. The first thing that came to my mind was wow, this would make a great Bullitt vilian clone. However, as the day went on I could not get the car out of my mind. So, at the end of our stay, I had to look at the Charger in more detail.
    Well, as you can imagine he said that I had a good eye, but this was no clone and was the hero charger. He went on to show where the cameras had been mounted he even had pictures to support his claims and the holes that he referenced. However, the bad new was that there was a fire at the studios and they could not verify if the numbers matched. But his story was that he found the car and it was yellow in Tucson in the early 70s and grew suspicious of the mounts and holes as he restored it. I asked what he would want for it (2012) and he said $525K, my friend that he was crazy. I thought he could have been low, but without paperwork it did not matter. However, the car was sent to SEMA shortly afterwards and I think it ended up selling somewhere in the mid $400k’s.
    However, I saw the Mustang on the Mall in DC last summer it is much more rough than that charger, but that in a way adds to the presence of McQueen. I think that in today’s market that the car will hit somewhere around $4.5-5M much higher than that incredible charger I saw just a few years ago.