Welcome to Car Week! The inaugural post will be a bit of an anomaly, as the outfit and the car featured are never seen in the same scenes together. Forgive this brief misstep and expect to see it rectified throughout the week. However, how could any blog like this start without featuring the legendary ’68 Mustang from Bullitt?
Steve McQueen as Lt. Frank Bullitt, maverick SFPD inspector
San Francisco, Spring 1968
Release Date: October 17, 1968
Director: Peter Yates
Costume Designer: Theadora Van Runkle
Tailor: Douglas Hayward
There is little dispute among both film and automobile fans that 1968’s Bullitt features the best car chase scene in movie history. Steve McQueen faces off in a fastback Mustang GT against two hitmen in a black Charger. By now, diehard fans of the film know that the Charger legendarily overtook and outpowered the Mustang during the actual filming, although it was still edited to have McQueen’s driving emerge victorious as the Charger ended up, sadly, in a ball of flame.
Although he actually wears his casual attire of a brown shooting jacket, dark blue rollneck, and charcoal slacks for the car chase, BAMF Style has yet to cover the first outfit McQueen wears as Bullitt, a relatively conservative navy blue suit… until today.
What’d He Wear?
Bullitt’s suit was tailored by Douglas Hayward, the legendary British designer who also suited Roger Moore, Sean Connery, and Michael Caine for various films.
The dark navy suit is traditional, strong, and would be as appropriate to wear in 2013 as it was in 1968. Although he is the younger, hipper character, Bullitt avoids the very fashion-forward (but now dated) look that Chalmers dons with his gray three-piece.
Bullitt’s jacket cut like the typical men’s business suit, with slim notch lapels, a single-breasted 2-button front, and a single vent in the rear. A breast pocket remains unadorned and two flapped pockets sit straight across each hip.
The trousers of Bullitt’s suit are flat front with plain hems and are worn with a black leather belt, fastened in the front by a dull brass squared clasp. There is a pocket on each side of the pants and, given the traditional look, it can be assumed that there are two jetted pockets on the pant rear as well.
Under his suit, Bullitt wears a pale blue shirt with a moderate spread collar, white buttons down a front placket, and buttoned barrel cuffs.
The tie has a dark olive green ground and a red-and-blue floral pattern over it. It is tied in a small and tight four-in-hand knot, loosely fastened around Bullitt’s neck. He is evidently not a man to wear ties and avoids them whenever possible. This is definitely a character trait rather than a McQueen trait, as he looks sharp in a necktie whenever he has to (if The Thomas Crown Affair is any indication).
Bullitt’s footwear is a simple pair of leather plain-toe oxford shoes with black socks.
His overcoat is the same raincoat worn in some of the later scenes at the airport, a beltless khaki raincoat with five buttons down the front and one button on each cuff. There is an open slash pocket on each hip and a deep single vent in the rear. Visible when Bullitt is talking to Cathy, the raincoat has a dark plaid lining on a tan ground.
Bullitt completes his look with his everyday wristwatch, positively identified as a civilian Benrus Series #3061 with a round polished steel case and black dial, fastened around his right wrist with a well-worn brown leather strap. Save for the thin gold necklace worn under his shirt, this is his only accessory worn in the film.
The suit is Bullitt’s most conservative look. As we learn from his after-work activities, a late night date at a beatnik coffee shop with his artistic British girlfriend, Bullitt is not the typical cop.
How to Get the Look
- Dark navy wool tailored suit, consisting of:
- Single-breasted 2-button suit jacket with notch lapels, welted breast pocket, straight flapped hip pockets, and single rear vent
- Flat front suit trousers with belt loops, side pockets, and plain-hemmed bottoms
- Pale blue dress shirt with a moderate spread collar, white buttons down a front placket, and button cuffs
- Dark olive green necktie with a red and blue floral pattern
- Black leather belt with square dulled brass single-claw buckle
- Black leather plain-toe oxfords
- Black dress socks
- Khaki beltless knee-length raincoat with 5 front buttons, 1-button cuffs, 2 open slash hip pockets, and a long single vent
- Benrus Series #3061 wristwatch with round polished steel case and black dial on dark brown worn leather strap
- Thin gold necklace
- Safariland Model #19 shoulder holster (brown leather, RHD, with tan strap) for snubnose Colt Diamondback
McQueen’s main rival as the film’s star was the 1968 Ford Mustang GT-390 2+2 fastback he drove throughout. Although not seen in any of these suit scenes, the Mustang made a mark on the screen with the excellently filmed and directed chase scene. McQueen, a talented driver of both cars and motorcycles, was careful to make sure he was seen doing as many of the stunt driving as possible. When McQueen is the one driving, the interior rear view mirror is up. When stunt driver Bud Ekins is behind the wheel, the rear view mirror is down. Ekins had previously been McQueen’s stunt man in The Great Escape.
The Mustang driven by McQueen in the film has attained legendary status, with Ford offering two later generations of the “Bullitt Mustang” in the same color, Highland Green. Two Mustang GT-390s were used in the film, both with the 390/325 V8 engine and 4-speed manual transmissions, provided by Ford through a well-placed promotional deal. Max Balchowsky, a race car driver, modified the engines, brakes, and suspensions so that the cars would adequately perform during the chase.
The rival car in the chase is one of my personal favorites, a black 1968 Dodge Charger R/T with a 440 Magnum V8 engine making 375 bhp. The original car to be used in these scenes was a Ford Galaxie sedan, but the hills of San Francisco were too much for the Galaxie to handle at high speeds and the Charger (or two Chargers, to be exact) were brought in as replacements.
The power of the Charger led to the Charger actually “winning” many of the chase scenes, with Frank P. Keller’s editing skills managing to make the Mustang look triumphant. Indeed, Keller’s expert editing of the gripping chase likely led to his winning the 1968 Academy Award for Best Editing.
Director Peter Yates had called for top speeds during the chase of no more than 80 mph, but the Mustang and the Charger – both products of the age of American muscle – easily topped 110 mph during the filming.
1968 Ford Mustang GT-390
Engine: 390 cu. in. (6.4 L) Ford FE V8 with a 4-barrel carburetor and dual exhaust
Power: 325 bhp (242 kW; 330 PS) @ 4800 RPM
Torque: 427 lb·ft (579 N·m) @ 3200 RPM
Transmission: 4-speed manual
Wheelbase: 108 inches (2700 mm)
Length: 183.6 inches (4660 mm)
Width: 70.9 inches (1800 mm)
Height: 51.6 inches (1310 mm)
Bullitt’s Mustang is fitted with a set of California license plates, JJZ-109.
The chase itself begins at Fisherman’s Wharf, a touristy neighborhood in San Francisco. After driving through the town, the chase ends on the Guadalupe Canyon Parkway near Brisbane, California. The total running time of the chase is 10 minutes and 53 seconds.
Music to Drive By
Lalo Schifrin’s score for Bullitt has been lauded in the 45 years since the film’s release and the classic soundtrack is the perfect jazzy companion to cruising in a classic American muscle car. The appropriately-named track “Shifting Gears” will send your eyes darting to the rear view mirror, trying to spot the shotgun-toting hitmen in a black Charger.
Other notable tracks are the main title song, “On the Way to San Mateo”, and “Ice Pick Mike”.
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Buy the movie and, if you can, get your hands on a ’68 Mustang GT-390 fastback.
During an argument with his police superiors, Bullitt offers his own narrative of the chase and its outcome.
Capt. Baker: You are sick. Smuggling a dead man out of a hospital, and now two men killed who may have had nothing to do with it?
Bullitt: The man I was chasing killed Ross.
Capt. Sam Bennett: How do you know? Did you see him?
Bullitt: Yes. He tried to nail me with a shotgun, a Winchester pump.