MELVILLE, N.Y. - The newest "Bullitt" version of the Ford Mustang is testament, in highland green clearcoat, to what a good job Ford has done over the years in maintaining the goodwill of its pony car.
Contrast that with how General Motors allowed its Chevrolet Camaro and Pontiac Firebird, which also have loyal followings, to die of neglect.
The Bullitt Mustang evokes the 1968 film of the same name co-starring Steve McQueen and a green '68 Mustang with the sweetest exhaust tone this side of heaven - which no stock Mustang ever had. McQueen and his co-star chase a couple of bad guys in a Dodge Charger all over San Francisco in a tire-squealing, hill-jumping, nine-minute duel that ends with the Charger and its occupants oven-toasted in a fiery wreck.
The green Mustang nearly upstages the human at the wheel, and for 2008 Ford is mining that goodwill with a second specially equipped version of the Mustang GT, priced at $31,075. The first Bullitt, an '01 model, was based on the previous-generation Mustang. The new one has the advantage of the retro, late-60-ish restyling done as part of the 2005 model year Mustang redesign.
Its 4.6-liter V-8 engine delivers an extra 15 horsepower over the base GT's - or 315, with an exhaust system tweaked for more power and a (not quite successful) effort to duplicate the sound of McQueen's car.
The five-speed transmission - the only gearbox available, because real men like McQueen shift their own gears -- is a bit crude but gets the job done. The clutch pedal pressure is light, and it's easy to get used to.
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