“It’s not often in life you find a Mona Lisa car in a garage somewhere. That’s what this is, a Mona Lisa car.” – McKeel Hagerty, Founder of the Historic Vehicle Foundation
This is a Cinderella story for car lovers and what makes this story so great is that it is true.
After the filming of Steve McQueen’s iconic film Bullitt, the two1968 Mustang GT Fastback models with vin numbers 558 and 559 were seemingly lost. The 558 went to scrap and the 559 disappeared.
In 1974, Robert Keirnan saw an ad in Road and Track magazine for a 6 year old Mustang (vin 559) and bought it for $6000 from a New Jersey Cop. The cop had purchased it in 1970 for $6000 from a Warner Brothers employee who had been sold or given the original vehicle.
Robert then used the car as the family ride for almost 6 years. But in 1977 Steve McQueen became nostalgic and tried to buy the car from Robert. He declined the offer.
The GT (with only 65,000 original miles on it) sat along with a 1975 Porsche in the family garage until 2001 when Robert began repairing and restoring the car with his son Sean, a car paint salesman. Robert passed away in 2014, leaving the car to his son. Sean finished the restoration in 2016 when he started the car for the first time.
Realizing he had a rare gem on his hands, he carefully plotted how to reveal it without blowing his cover. They kept the car under blankets and comforters in the garage telling anyone who asked that it was an old Camaro.
Sean worked with classic car experts who helped him document the car and create a legitimate paper trail. He then approached the Ford Motor Company with a unique idea for unveiling.
They worked together to help Sean absolutely validate the car so that no one could take it away from him. Sean has no intention of selling the car, now worth an estimated $4 million, he simply wants to share the car with the world that has so much sentimental value to him as the car he and his dad restored.
Kiernan was able to personally drive the car onstage at the Ford Motor Company 50th anniversary of the film “Bullitt” and the unveiling of the restored car, along with the debut of the new version of the Mustang GT that pays homage to the original.
Sean will be touring with the Bullitt (since he will not part from it) as part of a world wide tour that will end up spending a week enclosed in glass on the DC Mall and them probably housed in the Ford Museum.
Sean’s boss, Nick Zarcone, the CEO of LKQ Corp. automotive paint in Chicago, found out about the car when he received a call from Ford execs. “He said “People have been looking for this car since 1974 and one of your employees owns it.” He was then told that “Sean does not want to let the car go (on tour) unless he goes with it. It’s part of the fabric of his family.” Zarcone then reached out to Sean who told him the family story. “You couldn’t dream of a story like this” Zarcone said.
He gave his blessing for Sean to take a year off to tour with the car, after all it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity. Of course, he’ll be representing LKQ automotive paint as well, not bad for both parties.
The 2019 version is a special edition make-over that debuted in Detroit at the North American International Auto Show. The new version has 475 horsepower with a 5.0- liter V-8 engine and 420 lb-ft of torque. It’s slightly faster than the latest Mustang GT topping out at 163 mph. and is available in the original Highland Green used in the Steve McQueen Bullitt film.
Steve McQueen’s Granddaughter, Molly McQueen, revealed the new model onstage at the show.