First love

Like the 1968 Mustang featured in the Steve McQueen flick “Bullitt”, my very first car was a ’68 Mustang. Unfortunately, it was a coupe, not a fastback, and sadly had a straight-6, not a 390. It was also full of Bondo, but I loved it and do wish I had it back!

Bullitt Mustang

It was all over the news this week that the Mustang featured in the Steve McQueen movie “Bullitt” sold for a whopping $3.74 million at Mecum Kissimmee.

The Highland Green 1968 Mustang GT has a 390 under the hood and roared beautifully during the famous chase scene that reached speeds of 110 to 114 mph. Car-guy Steve McQueen was actually driving while running down the black Dodge Charger. Director Peter Yates was sitting in the back seat.

This 1969 ad for the movie says “McQueen embodies his special king of aware, existential cool”. I’m not sure what “existential cool” is, but McQueen is definitely just plain old cool. The car chase is described as a “terrifying, deafening shocker”.

Abe Battat, pianist and band leader, had a small part in the movie, but apparently his Austin-Healey did not fare well during filming. This funny blurb appeared in a 1968 newspaper story:

Screenstar Steve McQueen, here shooting a film called “Bullitt”, smashed his Mustang into the side of Pianist Abe Battat’s Austin-Healey, parked at Taylor and Clay during a scene. Steve to Abe: “Warner Brothers will take care of it.” Abe, playing a bit part in the flick: “I’ll take care of it if you give me a few more lines.” Sorry.

NSP Fox Body Mustang

This is how one Nebraska State Trooper rolls . . . . in an iconic 1993 Fox Body Mustang:

Photo credit: My State Trooper brother-in-law

This Mustang SSP (Special Service Package) has a 5.0-liter 302ci V8 and just has to be a blast to drive. (It was featured on “The Drive” in May, where the author referenced Nebraska’s “famously flat highways”. For the record, Nebraska is not flat, and you only think that if you never get far from I-80 which was constructed in the Platte River Valley because the Valley is flat. That’s how road construction works.)

Anyway, Ford built the Mustang SSP cars from 1982 to 1993. In 1982, the California Highway Patrol bought 400 of them and nine other states followed suit the next year. One 1983 story touted the early version’s cornering capability as well as its speed (over 120 mph) and rapid acceleration (zero to 50 in 6.3 seconds). It was a welcome change for CHP officers as reported by the Oakdale Leader: “The CHP officer no longer has to be embarrassed struggling to hit 85 mph in the unimposing Dodge St. Regis, which was forced on the CHP by tough environmental laws.”

Ford advertised the Mustangs as “This Ford chases Porsches for a living,” a slogan reminiscent of this one from 1956, “It takes a Ford to catch a Ford”:

The Ford became the police car of choice in the 1930s because of cars like the 1932 flathead Ford and a specially built 1939 Ford with a Mercury motor capable of speeds up to 100mph. Ford’s overwhelming popularity with law enforcement continued until the late 1960s.

1956 (Angola, Indiana)
1952 (Brookville, Pennsylvania)
1959 (Church Point, Louisiana)

As law enforcement agencies across the country struggle with recruiting, they may want to consider allowing more officers to drive classic patrol cars. Applicants would likely be lining up (especially if they added the 1969 Dodge Monaco with the 440 Magnum back into the line-up)!


“Fast Acceleration Spurring Sales of Mustang Special Service Cars.” The Hartford Courant, 11 May 1983, p. F2.

Ford. Advertisement. The Angola Herald, 4 April 1956, p. 4.

Ford. Advertisement. The Sandusky Register, 20 March 1956, page 1.

Peters, Eric. “Lots of Police Car Lore Offered in ‘Encyclopedia'”. The Courier News [Somerville], 23 August 2000, p. 6.

Photo. The Church Point News, 1 September 1959, p. 1.

Raymond-Barth, Mary. “CHP Adds Muscle to Enforcement, Instead of Being Left in the Dust.” Oakdale Leader, 27 April 1983, p. 1.

“Special Police Auto Arrives: Capable of Speeds of 100 MPH.” The Transcript Bulletin [Tooele], 12 December 1939, p.1.

“Something New.” The Brookville American, 1 May 1952, p. 1.

“The ’83 Ford Mustang Police Car.” The Courier Post [Cherry Hill], 24 May 1983, p. 140.