Mustang used in Steve McQueen’s ‘Bullitt’ comes to Tacoma car museum

As far as cars in movies go, this one’s legendary for its role in one of Hollywood’s most famous vehicle chase scenes.

Two Mustang GT 390 Fastbacks were used in the filming of the 1968 Steve McQueen classic, “Bullitt.” One of those arrived at LeMay-America’s Car Museum in Tacoma this week and is on display through April 25.

The car is noteworthy enought that it’s been inducted into the Historic Vehicle Association’s National Historic Vehicle Register. That means its documents, photos and history will be archived in the Library of Congress.

For years, no one knew what had happened to it.

For those who’ve never seen the movie, it included a nearly 10-minute chase scene starring McQueen with the car racing through the streets of San Francisco.

“Two Mustang GT 390s were modified for the making of Bullitt — which included a dark Highland Green paint scheme, no exterior badges, scoops or spoilers and adorned with a black-mesh grille absent of Ford’s iconic pony badging. Of the two, this is the only surviving car,” according to the museum’s news release.

The car belongs to Sean Kiernan of Tennessee, whose father purchased it for an amount estimated at $3,000 to $6,000 though a Road & Track magazine classified ad in 1974, Kiernan recalled in an interview in January with The Detroit Free Press.

Its estimated worth now is $4 million.

“My dad, he was the best of everything,” Kiernan told the Detroit newspaper. “He was into cars and horses and down to earth and funny. This car is part of the family. That’s what it means to me. That’s why I could never sell it.”

The family used the car for daily driving but later kept it covered in a garage with comforters and blankets and did not tell anyone outside the family about its significance.

Kiernan eventually reached out to Ford Motor Co. as the movie’s 50th anniversary neared. Classic car experts helped validate the documentation and car’s origin.

The museum will host a screening of “Bullitt” and a Q&A with Kiernan in late January. Details for the event will be posted at americascarmuseum.org.