The lost movie star

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The car chase from “Bullitt” is a film history. The hunter, a Ford Mustang, was long considered lost – until the chance brought back. This summer, Fans could admire him for the first time in Europe.


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HVA/ Casey Maxon

Emil Nefzger

David Pierce Brill

Emil Nefzger

Born in 1991, studied history, communication science and journalism in Munich. Training at the German school of journalism. Since January 2018 in the case of MIRROR ONLINE as an editor in the area of mobility.

More articles by Emil Nefzger

Monday, 02.04.2018
At 07:26

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The secret of the family Kiernan met his end in a Chevrolet Avalanche, a chunky, carelessly-designed Pickup. Sean Kiernan was a 2015 on the way home from a business trip, next to him, his boss, Casey Wallace. In the car silence reigned, the two a topic of conversation is missing for a long time. Kiernan loves, in contrast to his boss, cars and is – atypical for the United States – a rabid Fan of formula 1. The has not left his boss hidden, so chose this theme for the much needed Small Talk. What rumstehe with him because that’s the way home, asked Wallace. Sean Kiernan was a couple of older cars, eventually the Mustang of the family to the series: GT390, built in 1968 was dark-green.

“So, as the one in ‘Bullitt’?”, Wallace asked.

“Bullitt”. The Film, you never know who has played the main role. Steve McQueen as Lieutenant Frank Bullitt of the San Francisco Police Department or his official car, a Mustang, painted in Highland Green. Only ten minutes made the car a legend: Steve McQueen followed in him a Dodge Charger through the hills of San Francisco, at the wheel of two of the Killer of the Mafia.

The right car for a crime

McQueen had precise notions of his Mustang. No emblems graced the car, he was unobtrusive, but present and powerful. Exactly the right car for a crime Commissioner, says Mark Gessler, President Historic Vehicle Association: “The car gave the Film weight, it made him realistic. McQueen didn’t want a fancy car that would distract the viewers. He wanted a raw, strong Mustang.”

However, a car alone makes a Film iconic. “The cultural significance of the film is not to be underestimated,” explains Gessler. “Bullitt” is changing the way car chases are filmed today. Where before cars around corners, the audience heard an accident and then after a cut, only the wreck saw qualmten in the case of “Bullitt” tires drove, jumping cars over hills, only to landing your hubcaps throw in all directions. “This realism there were for the first Time, to sit in this feeling, self-control,” says Gessler. Without “Bullitt” would have given it to any of the great car films, explains Gessler: “‘Bullitt’ was ‘the First of the Furious’.”

In the drab plastic desert of the Chevrolet Avalanche, the question of the Mustang unleashed with Sean Kiernan nervousness. The Mustang was missing, rumors sprang up about his whereabouts. His boss knew about? He knew the secret of the car?

On par with James bond’s official car

More precisely, both the car said:. Two identical Mustangs brought back the various scenes on the canvas, the so-called Jump Car the Stunts, the Hero Car, the close-UPS. After the shooting, the two mythical heroes disappeared to work. Especially the Hero Car was desperately looking for, it was to the Holy Grail for all Mustang fans, says Mark Gessler: “The car is an icon, on a par with James Bonds Aston Martin DB5.”

In 1990, there was the last sign of life of the famous Mustang. In the “Mustang Illustrated”, a trade journal for Mustang Fans, claimed to be a Fan, to have the Hero Car found, the McQueen once tried to buy it back. A lie, which is called the actual owner on the Plan: He left the magazine a copy of the letter from Steve McQueen, the movie star explains to want the car buy it back. The car existed so remained but lost – because the owner wanted to remain anonymous. “Mustang Illustrated” published the letter with the cryptic add-on, the original car was “somewhere on the East coast”.

A screenplay just for the Mustang

Although Wallace is not for cars interested, this is a story he knew. More: The Mustang and his mysterious Disappearance had captivated Wallace, that he wrote with a friend once a screenplay. Two young men want to make it as a barn find to fast money: Mustang, Highland Green. The owner of the car cheats but the two of them, sold the Mustang to another prospective, between the two buyers is a race to the barn Fund ensues. At the end of the two young men get the car and find it in the glove compartment in a letter to McQueen, in which the actor declared that he would buy back his car from “Bullitt”.

Wallace got on the Tour through Tennessee. He told Kiernan of the screenplay, and also of the rumors that sprang up about the car, and he had always followed: The car had been for a long time in Kentucky and was here now, somewhere in Tennessee, betrayed Wallace. Next to him is Sean Kiernan, was raised on the East coast, and later moved to Kentucky, now in Tennessee alive. “My Boss told me the story of my life,” recalls Sean Kiernan. Somehow, he summed up in this Moment of trust to Casey Wallace and aired has for decades been a well-kept family secret: “I got him. The Mustang.”

His father, Bob, Kiernan, was discovered in 1974, with a display in the “Road and Track”magazine: “1968 Mustang driven by Steve McQueen in ‘Bullitt’. Documents exist.” Kiernan had just sold his MG, was looking for a Mustang and was a Fan of the movie. So he called and looked at the car. Hard to believe, but he remained the only bidder and bought the car.

Second career as a family coach

Bob Kiernan gave the movie heroes a second career. The Mustang was the only car of the pair Kiernan, at the weekend, Bob and his wife, trips by car accounted for under the week you drove it in the work – she was a teacher at a Catholic school. “The car is extremely loud, the nuns listened to my mother every day come, that was sure intense,” laughs Sean Kiernan.

In 1977, McQueen’s letter came, the movie star wanted to return the car. To restore it, but because it was for him just as much. But he met with Bob Kiernan on deaf ears. “My father never had problems, to say ‘no’, no matter to whom,” recalls Sean Kiernan. So the family kept the car, there were just too many memories on the dark green Mustang. And the winding from miles more diligently, in everyday life and on trips of the couple. However, 1980 was the end, after some 46,000 miles. In the year in which Steve McQueen died, gave up the clutch on the Mustang. For the movie heroes, it went up to the workshop for repair.

HVA/ Casey Maxon

The “Bullitt”Mustang in a barn.

He stayed there longer than planned. The Mustang had become impractical. He was loud, instead of a rear bench, there was room for cameras. So he was after Sean’s birth as a family car quite unsuitable.

A second main role for the Mustang

In 1984 the family from New Jersey moved to Kentucky, 1995, to Tennessee, to the dark green cinema pensioners came up with, of course. And then motivated manufacturer Ford, without knowing it, father and son, “came out in 2001, the first ‘Bullitt’-a special model, because my father and I started to disassemble the car,” recalls Sean Kiernan. “But to restore not to him. We wanted him to brush up just a little and back on the road, in no case, however, his story destroy.” So the car was taken apart and the engine overhauled.

However, as in 1980, the lives destroyed, the repair plans. Bob Kiernan Parkinson’s disease was diagnosed, Sean got his first child. The Mustang wandered in individual parts back in the Garage. 2014 Bob Kiernan died, the Mustang was always disassembled. Sean didn’t know what he should do with the big pile of film history. Until that fateful moment aboard the Chevrolet Avalanche, as Kiernan revealed to his boss. “That was the first Moment in which I was able to take my father to his death to feel,” recalls Sean Kiernan.

The next day, Wallace and his co-author Ken Horstmann showed him the script, Sean you Steve McQueen’s letter. From there, it was clear one: “I have to ensure that from the script of my bosses is a Film,” he explains with a serious voice. A Film should play in the famous car for a second Time the main reels. So he assembled the car piece by piece, with permanent self-doubt. What if he would make a mistake, just with this piece of history?

Sean Kiernans Worries were unfounded, in may 2016, the Mustang was ready, on a trailer it went to Atlanta, there is a expert on Ford confirmed vintage, the authenticity of the car. A little later the contact to Mark Gessler of the Historic Vehicle Association came to be, which documented the cultural heritage of the American cars. And finally, the contact to Ford. Sean and his father wanted to contact the group, make your Bullitt Mustang can be part of the official heritage of the founding father of the Pony Cars.

“Bullitt” to his successor

Ford had the perfect Moment: At the Detroit auto show in 2018, the car manufacturer presented a new “Bullitt”-special model for 50. Birthday of the movie. And returned to the anniversary of the most famous copy, with all of its Patina and the traces of two careers as a movie star and an everyday car, exactly as it was in 1980, his last mile. “That was in honor of our Art, Steve McQueen’s memory. He didn’t get the car back, but he is still exactly as it was on the canvas”, my Kiernan.

That’s exactly what he would like to show the car now to as many people as possible, and is touring with him through the USA. And in the summer, he hopes to be able to be with him fulfill a dream: to make A visit to the Goodwood Festival of Speed in England – of course, with the Mustang, the Fans in Europe have on the myth part.

“The joy of the car, the many people I was allowed to since get to know, all of that was great,” said Sean Kiernan, and adds: “My wife and I just needed Inspiration to the car, re-assemble.” And the came, of all places, to travel through Tennessee, in a boring Chevrolet Avalanche was a Hollywood legend resurrected.

Note. d. Red.: Originally, it was said in the Text, James bond car is an Aston Martin DB4, in fact, is a DB5. The current “Bullitt”-special model of the Ford Mustang was also 50. Birthday of the movie, not the model presented. These errors have now been corrected.

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