Story and Pictures Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

March 7, 2017
Contributers: Phillip Thomas, Federico Garza
The legend has been the same for decades:There were two 1968 Ford Mustang GT fastbacks provided by the Blue Oval as stunt cars in 1968's Bullitt, starring Steve McQueen. Both were Highland Green with aftermarket Cragar wheels, equipped with howling S-code 390s and four-speeds -- though sometimes a 289 wasclaimed to be the nimble jump car's motivator -- and both weremodified by Hollywood car builder Max Balchowsky to fit the interior movie lighting and cameras while also upgrading the chassis and suspension for the those famous jumps through the streets of San Francisco.

After filming, the lesser-damaged Mustang was sold toa Warner Brothers employee named Robert Ross, who sold it to a now-retired New Jersey detective named Frank Marranca (coincidentally, "Frank Bullitt" was McQueen's detective character), who then sold it in 1974 to the anonymous current owner that allegedly hid it in a Kentucky Barn-- and the second stunt car, the one that folds the front suspension at the end of the chase scene, was thought to be so heavily damaged during filming that it was, aghast!, crushed.

Despite letters from McQueen attempting to buy what was thought to be the last surviving car from the mysterious third-owner in 1977 (before his death in 1980), it was assumed that the story ended there -- as heartbreaking of a conclusion as one could imagine for the legacy of both the actor and film. (Sigh)

That is, until a dusty, white '68 fastback was pulled from a boneyard in CABO, Mexico -- ironically to berestomodded into an "Eleanor" from 2000's Gone in 60 Seconds. When the body shop ran the build plates, an extensive early Mustang background check, plans changed.

VIN 8R02S125558, the consecutive build number of the previously "lone-surviving" Kentucky Bullitt (8R02S125559), had been found. The history books were wrong: the second Bullitt stunt car was indeed sold after filming, though it's currently unknown how.

Other than the VIN, there were more clues: The shock towers were welded, chassis reinforcements were found, and the rear-left inner-fender had a hole cut, which was presumably used for exhaust pipe of the trunk-mounted, gas-powered generator that energized the in-car movie lights used in the interior shots (35mm movie cameras needed a lot of lighting to expose the film properly) in both stunt cars. There was also a fair amount of chassis damage in strange places; and of course, through the layers of spray paint, was the notorious Highland Green paint.  

According to Federico Garza -- the Stangs de Mexicali club member who discovered the news when the body shop's owner, Ralph Garcia Jr., came to his fastener shop, hands shaking, with photos of the car and VIN plate -- both Mustangs in the lead photo above were purchased by Hugo Sanchez with the intention of using both to build an Eleanor tribute from the 2000 remake of Gone in 60 Seconds. The car had been around for 20-30 years, at one point abandoned down in CABO, deep in the Baja California Sur section of the magic peninsula, before Hugo finally rescued it.

This, of course, could have been one of the biggest travesties in movie and Mustang culture had it not been for Ralph's research, which lead to the early Mustang report.
With Ralph's blessing and club Stangs de Mexicali's support, Federico arranged for the car to be featured at a local Ford dealership to showcase the discovery. In the months ahead, Ralph's body shop replaced the roof, quarters, and floor pans (though they are staying with the Baja Bullitt) before quickly wrapping the car in a fresh coat of paint. Federico then began posting photos to the Vintage-Mustangs forum, with the membership showing equal amounts of skepticism and mouth-foaming.

Confirming sequences VIA LA Times: "Paramount-based body shop owner Ralph Garcia Jr., who has made a career building replicas of the “Eleanor” Mustang featured in the Nicolas Cage movie “Gone in 60 Seconds,” said he was contacted by an associate in Mexico. He had found a clean ‘68 Mustang fastback that he thought would be a good candidate for “Eleanor”-ization. Ralph Garcia Jr., Kevin Marti and Hugo Sanchez pose in front of the reputed "Bullitt" car. The associate, Hugo Sanchez, delivered the car to a shop Garcia owns in Mexicali, Mexico. It was scheduled for restoration when Sanchez called Garcia and told him that he had run the vehicle identification numbers on the car and discovered it was no ordinary Mustang.“I was going to turn it into another ‘Eleanor’ car, but my partner Googled the VIN,” Garcia said. “That’s how he found out it was the ‘Bullitt’ car. He said, ‘You can’t touch it!’. 

”The pair later enlisted the expert opinion of Ford evaluator Kevin Marti, who gave the car his official seal of approval. Though initially skeptical — “I see car fraud on a daily basis” — Marti asked Garcia for detailed photos of the car, then traveled to Mexicali to inspect it in person.“Then I was sure,” he said, after checking VIN stamps and specific aspects of the car that would likely be unknown to anyone attempting to pass off a regular Mustang as the “Bullitt” car. Marti said there were two identical cars used in the filming of “Bullitt,” a “hero” car that was used for the casual driving scenes, and a “jumper” car that was used for the dramatic chases, some of which involve airborne launches.“This is the jumper,” Marti said, based on documents obtained from the filming and alterations to the car’s suspension system."

Everything came together last Friday, March 3, when Kevin finally met the BajaBullitt in Mexicali. With a jubilant mariachi band, the Baja Bullitt was pushed inside for Kevin's inspection. It took about a half-hour, but Kevin, Hugo, and Ralph finished their scrutiny with success and smiles. The CABO Baja-Bullitt was 8R02S125558 -- the lost stunt car.

The Great Bud Ekins performed many of the incredible stunts in this film. CLICK HERE for the Life Memorial coverage by Baja Racing News LIVE

October 2007, The passing of a Legend. Baja Racing News LIVE!

Confirmed by OFF-ROAD LIVE!, the CABO Baja-Bullitt Mustang is now in the USA, undergoing restoration.