Authenticity of Bullitt Mustang in Mexico Confirmed; Drivetrain and Much Bodywork Not Original

Bullitt in Mexicali IMG_0448

If you’re restoring a Ford Mustang, or pretty much any Ford, the guy you call first is Kevin Marti. He’s the man in blue in the photo above, taken at a Ford dealership in Mexico. Next to him, in the car shirt, is Ralph Garcia, Jr., who has the Mustang they’re posing with—the elusive stunt car from the 1968 movie Bullitt. 

Marti’s company, Marti Auto Works, is situated near the end of a runway at Luke Air Force Base in the desert west of Phoenix. He produces parts that restorers need. Even more important, though, is that Marti has a licensing agreement with Ford through which he can share detailed information about how each car was equipped when it rolled off the assembly line. A Marti Report is considered infallible truth among Ford faithful. So it’s his word that mattered most when determining the truth of the claim that one of two Ford Mustangs used for filming the Steve McQueen movie Bullitt had been found in Mexico.

“I’ve had people order reports for Bullitt-serial-number cars,” Marti said. “I ask them, ‘Do you actually have this car?’ Anyone can order a report. What they typically say is, ‘I’m wanting to make a clone, and I want to know how the car was originally delivered.’ ”

Marti has been at this long enough that he has memorized the serial numbers of certain cars, including Mustangs that raced in the original Trans-Am series and cars that had significant roles in movies. A few weeks ago, he was asked for a report on a serial number he knew by heart. So Marti asked if the caller had the car.

“The guy said, nonchalantly, ‘Yes,’ ” Marti recalled. “Do you know what this car is?” Marti asked. “He did not.”

But Marti did. The car in question was the stunt car from the movie Bullitt, the car that flew over the hilly streets of San Francisco before sending the villain-driven Dodge Charger into a fiery finish of exploding gas-station pumps while the Mustang skidded safely to a stop.

“Before you do anything, you should have someone take a look at this car,” Marti suggested. “He asked me to be the person.”

So Kevin Marti headed off to Mexicali, Mexico, where Ralph Garcia, Jr., has one of his two custom-car facilities, a paint shop just across the border from Calexico, California. Garcia’s primary shop is in Paramount, California, between Los Angeles and Long Beach. He customizes pickups, Chevrolet Camaros, Dodge Chargers, and other vehicles, including the installation of modern suspension components, and for nearly a dozen years he has specialized in turning vintage Mustangs into clones of Eleanor, the car from the 1974 movie Gone in 60 Seconds. That was what he planned and had started to do with the Bullitt car.

The data plate on the door pilar shows evidence of the multiple times the car has been painted.

The data plate on the door pillar shows evidence of the multiple times the car has been painted.

Around a dozen years ago, Garcia said, he had a 1966 Mustang and a ’71 Mach 1, “and my parts supplier said, ‘Why don’t you build one of those Eleanors and make a good profit on it?’ Eleanor was a big thing. I had a ’67 Mustang convertible and turned it into an Eleanor and sold it within two days,” Garcia said. “The next car was a fastback like the [Gone in 60 Seconds] movie car, and it sold in the first week. From that point, I started building Eleanors.”

Garcia said his partner in the Bullitt project, Hugo Sanchez, is the one who found what was left of the car in the southern tip of Baja, not far from Cabo San Lucas. Sanchez had offered the car to others, but not knowing what it really was, “nobody wanted to buy it.

“Two weeks later,” Garcia recalled, “he called and said: ‘Don’t touch it! It’s the movie car. I got a Marti Report.’ ”

This modified rear valance was part of the car as it was found in Baja California. It was created when the car was damaged during one of the jump scenes and was on the car for the rest of the filming of the movie.

This modified rear valance, part of the car as it was found in Baja California, helped Marti with the identification. It was created when the car was damaged during one of the jump scenes and stayed on the car for the remainder of filming.

Max Balchowsky of Old Yeller fame had been contracted by Warner Brothers to prepare two 1968 Mustang fastbacks for use in Bullitt, starring Steve McQueen. After filming was finished, the cars were returned to Balchowsky, who complained that he didn’t have room in his shop to store them. The studio’s response was to offer to sell him the cars so it could get them off its books. Balchowsky bought the cars. The hero car, used for all but the chase scenes, could be salvaged, so he fixed it up and sold it. But the jumper car had been too badly damaged and was sent to a local wrecking yard.

Although the car supposedly could not have been repaired sufficiently to license it for road use in California, it eventually was taken to Mexico and was put back on the road. Over time, the Baja Peninsula’s salty seaside air apparently took its toll on the car’s sheetmetal.

After wearing Highland Green paint for its role in the movie, the car had been repainted, first in red and later in white. After doing body work, Garcia’s shop has returned it to its original color.

Kevin Marti’s opportunity to inspect the car was unusual, to say the least. The car was in the showroom of a Ford dealership, along with several dozen people, including
-a full mariachi band.

Kevin Marti’s opportunity to inspect the car was unusual, to say the least. The car was in the showroom of a Ford dealership, along with several dozen people, including a full mariachi band. Garcia said the festivities were held as part of the car’s “farewell to Mexico” before it was transported to Garcia’s California shop.

“It was kind of unnerving,” Marti said about crawling around inside and under the car with such an audience and with live music playing. The car had no drivetrain or interior, and rusted-away sheetmetal had been replaced, but Marti was able to confirm that the VIN stamping in the engine compartment and the original door data plate, even though it had been painted over a couple of times, validate his belief that the remains are, indeed, those of the Bullitt stunt car.

Kevin Marti inspects the part of the Bullitt Mustang’s original and seriously rusted floorboard.

Kevin Marti inspects part of the Bullitt Mustang’s original and seriously rusted floorboard.

“It’s pretty much a complete car,” Garcia said, adding that he has the original seats and has located a source for a properly dated engine. “But without the drivetrain. And the rear end wasn’t there. And it had rust. We removed all the rust and put in original parts from a ’68. We’re about to gather all the remaining parts that we need,” he said, adding that he is getting guidance on the restoration from Glen Kalmack, a Bullitt Mustang specialist from British Columbia.

“The car was going to be built for a customer in Georgia as an Eleanor. But it wasn’t meant to be. It was meant to be for myself and Hugo Sanchez. We’ve been blessed with this Bullitt car. We plan to keep it and restore it back to the way it was from the movie, and from that point we’re going to see what the Lord has to offer us. We’d like to put it in a TV show about finding Mustangs and other cars and about restoring the lost Bullitt.”

Larry Edsall is editorial director at ClassicCars.com.

Audi Sport Quattro Is Dead, But There’s a Slim Chance U.S. Could Get Next RS6 Wagon

Audi Sport Quattro concept

Aside from the existing R8, Audi Sport says it has no plans to follow AMG’s lead in producing unique cars (such as the AMG GT coupe, roadster, and upcoming four-door) that don’t share any of their bodywork with the rest of the range. And that means the awesome Sport Quattro concept (above) that was first shown in 2013 is unlikely ever to see the light of day.

“It’s a nice dream,” new Audi Sport boss Stephan Winkelmann admitted, “but I think we have so much in front of us that the most important thing is to get the lineup where we need it. I think there is the opportunity for a very limited car, but this is not my top priority at the moment.”

We are going to see more Audi Sport models, though. Winkelmann has said we can expect to see more RS versions of SUVs beyond the current RS Q3. And he likes the idea of special editions and limited-run versions of RS models, confirming that we can expect to see Performance versions (which have replaced the previous Plus models) offering a bigger jump in power and speed than before.

Winkelmann also said that in the future there will be more differentiation, especially in appearance, between S models (developed by Audi) and RS versions of the same car. “We need to make it even clearer, when you see our cars on the road, that they are RS cars.”

There’s also an outside chance that the United States will get a small quantity of the next-generation RS6 Avant wagon, along with the RS7. This is all some way off—the new RS6 won’t be launched in Europe before 2019—but an Audi of America insider says that numbers are being crunched to make a case for it, with the modest success of the Allroad proving there is some residual wagon enthusiasm among U.S. Audi buyers. If Audi wants to salve the pain of the stillborn Sport Quattro, sending us the RS6 wagon would be an excellent way to do it.

2017 Bugatti Chiron Driven! Holy Mother of—!

2018-Bugatti-Chiron-PLACEMENT

If there’s any doubt about the Bugatti Chiron’s raison d’être, it’s written right on the steering wheel, on a large blue button emblazoned with one word: ENGINE. Sure, we could wax poetic about the marriage of modern technology to the ancient human craving to express vanity and wealth. Or about how the 1500-hp Chiron is metaphorically the 700-room Château de Versailles with a tailpipe, how the $3 million price means it is no crazier than hiring an artist to spend four years painting God and Adam and all the angels and saints on your chapel ceiling. In other words, we could go on and on about how it is an exuberant, untethered overstatement in the service of generating delirious stupefaction, both in the nobles who luxuriate in it and the peasants who revel in its reflected glory. READ MORE ››

Property Owner Cited for Turning Blighted Football Stadium into Massive VW TDI Parking Lot

Volkswagen TDI 4-cyl

Volkswagen has been storing some of its more than 100,000 bought-back TDI-equipped cars in various places around the country as the automaker wades through the largest scandal in its 80-year history. One such location appears to have become a bit of a problem. The city of Pontiac has cited the property owners of the blighted Silverdome, a former NFL stadium where the Detroit Lions played from 1975 to 2001, for turning the site into a massive parking lot for diesel-powered VWs in limbo.

The Detroit Free Press reports that Pontiac has issued six citations to Triple Investment Group, ranging from improper security of the cars to lacking a business license to store them there. Triple Investment Group has owned the 127-acre site since 2009, when it bought it in a city auction for $583,000.

Car and Driver attempted to contact the property owners, as well as the city of Pontiac and Volkswagen, on Thursday. A VW spokesman told C/D earlier this year that the company was keeping the cars maintained at various sites around the U.S., including the Silverdome, until a final fix is made for the cars or until they are otherwise recycled in some form.

Volkswagen admitted in September 2015 to purposely rigging its TDI-equipped vehicles with “defeat devices” that would trick emissions testers. It has since agreed to pay out billions of dollars, including setting aside some $11.2 billion to offer buybacks for more than half a million affected cars.

2018 Ford Edge Goes Dark with New Sport Appearance Package

2017 Ford Edge SEL sport appearance package

The Ford Edge embraces the dark side for the 2018 model year with the introduction of a new Sport Appearance package. The $1295 package is limited to the midline SEL trim and adds a host of dark trim and sporty-looking features.

Helping the Edge SEL Sport Appearance package stand out from the rest of the Edge lineup are a set of dark-colored 19-inch, 10-spoke wheels that are complemented by a similarly darkened grille, mirror caps, rear spoiler, and decorative front and rear skid plates. Additionally, there are blacked-out headlamp bezels and black window trim, which replaces the Edge SEL’s standard chrome.

2017 Ford Edge SEL sport appearance package

Inside, the Edge SEL Sport Appearance package includes a copper-colored dashboard trim piece and gray cloth seats with contrasting brown suede inserts and stitching. Ford notes that the Sport Appearance package offers Edge customers the chance to pair cloth seats with higher-end technology, notably Ford’s Sync 3 infotainment system. Currently, customers must choose the optional leather seats to get Sync 3.

The Ford Edge SEL Sport Appearance package goes on sale this fall. While Ford hasn’t released pricing for the 2018 Ford Edge, the 2017 SEL starts at $32,685.

2017-Ford-Edge-SEL-sport-appearance-package-REEL

Mazda Still Working on Wankel Engines, But Not Like You’d Hope

Mazda RX Vision Concept

Mazda RX-Vision concept

Mazda has repeatedly teased—or tortured—Wankel-engine fans with the possibility of a multirotor sports car and then retracted that possibility. Now, new patent applications show the brand is once again working on the rotary, but in an application that’s likely to dash the hopes of the engine’s fans: using its iconic engine as an onboard generator, rather than the free-revving heart of a sports car.

It’s not a new idea for the brand. Mazda tested the idea a decade ago in the hydrogen-fueled, rotary-range-extended electric Mazda 5 (Premacy) minivan and more recently in the electric Mazda 2 RE Range Extender (an application similar to that of the BMW i3), which complemented an electric-only version of the Mazda 2 in Japan.

Two new U.S. patents filed by Mazda, and first reported by Autoblog, indicate that the company is still at work on that idea for a small car. One of the patents covers the layout of the Mazda 2 RE while the other points specifically to the Wankel—and a mechanism that would stop it at precisely the place in its combustion cycle that would minimize emissions while easing restarting.

Mazda rotary engine stop-start system
-Mazda spokesperson Jacob Brown confirmed that the automaker has continued to study and develop range-extending technologies based around the pistonless engine, and he also confirmed that Mazda is planning to launch an electric vehicle in 2019. “We can’t quite say yet where a potential EV or PHEV would be sold, as the vehicle doesn’t exist,” Brown said. “But we can confirm that Mazda is committed to delivering driving enjoyment in an environmentally responsible manner.”

Matsuhiro Tanaka, Mazda’s research and development chief for Europe, did confirm to Auto Express that the plug-in-hybrid (perhaps rotary) models will enter some markets in 2021 and that the EV would be a subcompact, with lighter underpinnings than equivalent gasoline models to make up for the weight of batteries.

Mazda range-extended EV

A simple range extender may be little consolation to those hoping for a successor for the RX-8 sports car, which was discontinued in 2012. The rumor mill of rotary-engine ups and downs has been turbulent; most recently, Wankel heads had their hopes up when Mazda introduced the RX-Vision concept at the 2015 Tokyo auto show (seen at top). Executives had teased that they were working on bringing the rotary engine back to market—and that a new RX sports car could only be made with such an engine (possibly turbocharged, even). Then, just a few months ago, Mazda CEO Masamichi Kogai said that the automaker had no plans to build such a sports car above the MX-5 Miata.

Sorry, Mazda, but the idea of a Wankel engine cycling on and off to charge a battery pack—that holds none of the appeal of a racy, two- or three-rotor screamer powering a new sports car.

2018 Toyota Yaris: Updated Except Where It Needed It the Most

2018-Toyota-Yaris-PLACEMENT

For the 2018 model year, Toyota has given the Yaris tweaked looks and more standard and available features. (Have no fear, we checked, and it’s definitely still a car.) The subcompact’s lineup remains the same, with two- and four-door hatchback body styles available in L and LE trims and an SE model topping the four-door range. READ MORE ››