“The Mustang is essentially America’s car, The movies are essentially America’s art form”
I fully agree with the first statement and wholeheartedly agree with the second. Having a mustang appearance in an American movie is has become an institution unto itself. The product placement benefits that Ford has reaped over the years simply by building a car that is quintessentially cool probably cannot be quantified.
This infographic from Late Model Restoration contains some of the more memorable appearances of the classic pony car. Obviously this is not a comprehensive list, but any fan of film when pressed to decide which is the most memorable mustang appearance in American history would hopefully say the classic car chase through the streets of San Francisco in Bullitt.
Interestingly enough, that iconic car chase in the now legendary Emerald Green Fastback contains more cinematic historical relevance than just being arguably the most part of a movie that in (many people’s opinion) was mired by a confusing plot and excessively slow burning action.
While Steve McQueen did in fact drive the car in some of the close up shots, the bulk of the driving was done by his friend and frequent stunt collaborator Bud Ekins. Ekins also did the famous motorcycle jump for Steve McQueen in the Movie The Great Escape.
The black Charger in the scene was driven by another friend of Mcqueen’s, legendary stunt driver Bill Hickman. Hickman was also friends with James Dean, and was the first person on the scene the night of Dean’s fatal car crash in 1955. Hickman was also the principal stunt driver in another famous car chase in The French Connection.
The speed of the cars as they were filming for the chase scene sometime exceeded 110 miles per hour. Several of the shots in the film that show the cars on the verge of being out of control look so authentic because (in reality) the drivers were almost constantly on the verge of being out of control.
There is no question that the Mustang has made its mark in the American cinematic imagination. In Bullitt and in countless other movies it has personified a sort of rebellious spirit, capable of injecting adventure into even the most mundane of narratives, simply with the power of being, well… basically just by being “cool”.
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