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Tech Talk with Master Power Brakes

The Most Famous Classic Car Chase Scene Ever?

Posted by toby on Mar 17, 2015 4:29:33 PM

The other day, I was flipping through channels looking for something to watch on TV and I stumbled upon the 1968 classic, Bullitt, starring Steve McQueen.  This film features one of the coolest car chase scenes ever.  Almost fifty years later, viewers get worked up by the powerful engines and cool lines of the cars in this movie, but remember, the clip could have never been made without brakes!

In case you have never seen the film, or you don’t remember the chase scene, here is a link below:

Fun Facts About This Clip

Ford loaned Warner Brothers two 1968 390 V8 GT Fastbacks with four-speed manual transmissions as part of a promotional agreement. The engines, brakes and suspensions were heavily modified so the cars could rip through the streets of San Francisco—and handle those hills…..

Ford also donated two Galaxie sedans for the project, but the cars were too heavy to stand up the jumps presented during the 10 minute chase.  The movie producers replaced the Galaxie’s with two 1968 440 Magnum V8-powered Dodge Chargers. The engines in both Chargers were left largely unmodified, but the suspensions were upgraded to handle the stunt work.

The original plan called for chase speeds topping out around 80 mph, but there are portions of the clip were the drivers exceeded 110 mph.  The producers originally wanted to include the Golden Gate Bridge in the scene but local authorities would not allow it.

Steve McQueen was actually an accomplished stunt driver and he did some of his own driving during Bullitt.  One of the stunt drivers used for this scene—Bud Elkins—is the same stuntman who doubled for McQueen during the famous Great Escape sequence where McQueen's character jumps over a barbed wire fence on a motorcycle.

One of the drivers involved in the chase sequence later admitted that the more powerful stock Dodge 440s were so much faster than the Mustangs that he kept laying off the gas to prevent dusting the Mustang.

One of the Bullitt Mustangs was immediately scrapped after filming due to damage and liability concerns, but the remaining vehicle (VIN 8R02S125559) was sold to a Warner Brothers employee.  McQueen made an unsuccessful bid to acquire the car in the late 70s.   The car’s current condition and location remain a bit of a mystery, but the vehicle is rumored to be stored in a Kentucky barn.  One might argue that the car’s mysterious whereabouts only adds to this classic’s mystique.

Most of us have no interest in putting our classic cars at risk by plowing through crowded city streets pushing 100 mph, but it sure is fun to watch what these cars could do with skilled drivers behind the wheel.

Topics: 68 Mustang Fastback, brakes, classic cars, 68 Dodge Charger, Car History

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