2008/2009 Mustang Bullitt launch
THE ADVENTURE BEGINS... AGAIN
Friday, 16 November 2007
The adventure begins….
I received my invitation via overnight mail. In the package were a letter and a Bullitt DVD that had a special back cover. The normal cover was replaced with the invitation to the prelaunch media event. I RSVPed and received flight and hotel instructions. This was the only information that Ford gave out. A Ford representative would meet me at the airport. Ford had done an exceptional job of keeping things on a need to know basis. J ust hadLt Bullitt had done when he hid the body from Chalmers.
As I sat at the airport, I too had the same doubts that this Bullitt could have the same stuff as the 2001. The pedigree would obviously be different as the 01 had to be fought tooth and nail to become a reality. But maybe this car had a story behind it also.
After arriving at the hotel we were invited to have some lunch and then we would we get a walk around and then hand over the keys for a 2-hour drive. Mary Jean Wesche Editor of the Mustang Times would be co-driver. As we walked out for lunch there it was. The 08 Bullitt. Even from a distance it has a presence. Several members of the engineering and design team joined us at lunch to talk about the car and the design and engineering cues that make this car special. Some of them were Paul Randle, Chief Nameplate Engineer, Tom Barnes, Engineer and Whitney Drake, Ford Division Communications.
I asked specifically about the 4.6 engine and what was the thinking behind the choice. They felt that in order to maintain the balance of handling and power that there was no reason to go with a larger engine. Also it is not as simple as taking a truck engine and dumping it into this car. New manifolds and other parts would have required engine development and the cost of the car would have been easily pushed into the upper 30K range. Affordability was a major factor in creating this car. There were no side louvers for two reasons one was visibility issues and the other design. The designers liked the clean looks and it goes back to all non-essential stuff is removed from the car. Lunch was not over quick enough for me, but we eventually headed back to the hotel. They had valeted the car so as it was coming up the drive I got a quick photo somewhat like the press one that Ford put out.
Upon approaching the car there is a sense of “it’s 2001 all over again”. The designers have captured the essence of the 68 car. Simple, some might say plain, but an aggressive look. Slide into the recovered GT 500 seats, put you hands on the steering wheel also from the GT 500 Turn the key and you hear it. The growl that is uniquely Bullitt. So began my test drive with Mustang Times Editor Mary Jean Wesche. The first thing I became aware of was the clutch. Very smooth and not heavy like you were at the gym doing leg presses. Good news if someone needs to use the car as a daily driver. We headed out into traffic with me behind the wheel. The following is my driving impressions of the 08 Bullitt.
Throttle response is excellent. Ford tweaked the throttle to give it a crisper throttle response. The 3.73 gears also provide that instant feeling of power. The power band really hits at around 4200 RPM. Even in 4th gear we climbed with ease up a steep grade. With the traction control off it is very easy to light the tires up on a launch. But the tires, BFGs, are much better than the 01’s Gatorbacks. As far as a comparison between the 01 and the 08, 45 extra ponies make a difference. The acceleration difference is really felt in the 3000 and up range. It pulls like heck thanks to the 3.73 gears.
The shifting in this car is light years ahead of the 01. Although not a short throw shifter, it is smooth and not overly long between gears. No notchy or sloppy feeling in the transmission. Clutch is very light and easy on the foot. Smooth and tight the pressure needed to engage the clutch is just right. The shifter is not a short throw but could easily be one. Ford redesigned the shifter for the 08s and from reports I have read corrected the sloppy feel.
Crisp and responsive is the best way to describe the handling. We took the 08 Bullitt down Guadalupe Canyon road where the ending of the chase scene was filmed. This is an excellent road to test out the handling. The car drove through the curves with little or no over steer, this car handled like it was on rails at high speed it is very forgiving, if you do make a steering error you can easily correct. . Let’s just say I took the curves at well over the posted speed limit and had no problems. The ride is much better in the 08 over the 01. Wheel hop is reduced and there is a sense of it just being a much tighter car.
I had a couple of opportunities to brake hard and did not feel significant fade in the brakes. ABS of course is standard on both cars so the brakes I would call equally good.
Some cool little design cues that make it special. Gauge cluster has cross hairs in the center on both the tach and speedo with retro numerals on all gauges. The seats are very comfortable and a definite upgrade over the stock GT seats. Metal turned dash I personally like but some didn’t care for. Aluminum trimmed A/C vents look really good. Racing type pedals are also from the GT 500. The main difference is the room inside. It is a larger car and the cabin feels much roomier than the 01. Of course the sill plates have Bullitt stamped into them but the de-bossed logo is not filled in.
This new Bullitt version was well thought out and was engineered by a group of enthusiasts that went back to the 01 for inspiration. The parts used are unique to this car not a conglomerate of FRPP parts and it shows. The crisp throttle response and handling make this car a nice addition to the Bullitt family.
Up early, ate a quick breakfast of pancakes topped with sweet potatoes and melted marshmallows. We took off and headed to Ft Mason, down by the bay where the press launch would be held. When we arrived, we first noticed the Bullitt banners in place above the SEMA cars. All paid tribute to either the movie or the new car. Man, I wanted one of those. As an appetizer we were invited to drive some of this year’s SEMA cars. Some of the cars present were the Sport Trac Adrenalin, the Galpin Fusion, a 400 HP new Focus, a nice Escape, and an Expedition. Unfortunately I asked about the Adrenalin’s engine and it’s not going to be the SC truck everyone had hoped.
We had a chance to talk with several of the engineers and the designers of the car prior to the debut. I asked numerous questions about the 08 Bullitt and got answers to most of them. I asked Doug Gaffka Head Designer about several items. Dual vented hood never entered into the design. What about red brake calipers? No reason since the 68 did not have them and they are really not big enough outward face to make an impact like they did on the 01. Lowered more like the Shelby? They wanted to make this car capable of going to the road course on the weekend and still be a great daily driver. So they compromised on the spring rates and ride height. The idea with this car was to make it as unassuming as possible in the tradition of the movie car. So no California Special or Shelby nose.
The press arrived in small groups most directly from the airport. Mike’s 1968 Bullitt movie replica was a big hit at the launch. Mike was able to meet many members of the press and answered numerous questions about his car. It was a perfect backdrop for the release and pictures with Alcatraz in the bay behind.
We had a nice buffet lunch as the excitement built for the afternoon debut. Finally we were asked to go outside and wait. You heard the cars before we saw them. Then they came screaming around the corner one after another. The first three cars came sliding to a stop directly in front of us. The remainder, 9 in all lined up side by side behind the first three.
2008 Bullitt Press Booklet
Introductions were made and then Paul Randle did a walk around of the car explaining all of the features beginning with engine. Then it was time to head for Monterey, CA. We were given a booklet with directions for the route and specs for the 08.5 Bullitt. Since we had driven the car on Monday, we had to drive a rental, wait for it.. Taurus. Not even a new Taurus. But it was a nice drive and was chosen to show off the new Bullitts moves. Unfortunately the weather didn’t cooperate and we drove in cloudy and foggy conditions so we didn’t get any good photo ops on the way down.
Strangely we lost track of every single Bullitt until we reached the halfway point. With typical San Francisco traffic to deal with we got separated quickly.
About halfway Ford arranged a driver change stop at a small town that had a coffee shop where the cars were looked over by patrons. Then back onto the Pacific Coast highway to the hotel, the Inn at Spanish Bay. We all checked in and then met to take the shuttle to the restaurant. We had another outstanding meal with more great discussions. I heard favorable comments from all of the press that were present. I sat with Paul Randle and I tried to bring up the future projects but no hints. Just the comment “trust us”. We also talked a little more about the Bullitt and how well it would do against the Shelby GTs on the track. He said in his opinion, the suspension is better than the Shelby GT’s. When we returned we were surprised to fine a special gift inn our rooms. We each were given a faux gas cap to remember the event.
Up early for breakfast and then headed back to San Francisco and home. Ford sent us back on a different route but it was just as fun even in a Taurus. We made one more stop before we headed for the airport to get pictures of the infamous red Bullitt. Ford basically hid the 08 Bullitt in plain site by leaving the GT emblems on the car and the fact it was red attracted little attention. This car is a fully equipped with all of the Bullitt features and was the development car for the program. Unfortunately it will be recycled, a nice word for crushed.
The other pilot production Bullitts will be taken back to Michigan reconditioned and then sold at a dealer’s auction. Each has a minimum of 4000 miles on them. I spoke to several of the engineers who worked on the BULLITT program while I was in San Francisco. They told me that the cars were actually out on public roads since mid-September, but that they did all of their driving at night so as not to attract attention. The locking car covers were mandatory at every public stop. They almost made the entire 7 weeks without any published pictures, but a Mustang enthusiast caught up to them in PA near the end of September, getting the only photos of the car to be released before the San Francisco debut. So the rarest Bullitts will be the 20 that have PP before their numbers. If anyone I interested in one of these cars I can contact Ford to see when the cars will go up for auction.
Although the 2008 Bullitt designers did not have the same issues over even bringing the car to production as Team Mustang did in 2000, I did find a story behind this car. It was the hard work and dedication by the engineers and designers that had the same passion as we do toward our cars. Each Ford representative glowed with pride at being a part of the team that put this car together. They were all very proud of this car and it shows.
It was a once in a lifetime experience and I feel fortunate and humbled that I was chosen to represent IMBOC and all of the Bullitt owners at this event. As a part of a great group I hope that I can continue to provide the club with a quality, fun Bullitt Nationals.