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The 2008 Ford Mustang Bullitt Is the King of Cool Special Edition Pony Cars

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author photo by Tyler Hoover March 2017

I recently spent a week in San Diego for work -- and when I mean work, I mean I spent one day checking in on a well-running store before joining my friends at a beach house for a bachelor party. Thankfully, there aren't any crazy "Hangover"-type stories to tell, but I did have a great time renting the king of cool special edition Mustangs.

My week started when I flew into John Wayne Airport in Orange County, a few hours north of San Diego. Like my Oversteer compadres Doug and Will, I browsed Turo for a great car that a complete stranger would loan me for my trip. I had already reserved the Mustang in San Diego for a few days but wanted a second car to drive for the duration of the trip.

I am probably one of the few crazy people to have ever had this problem, but I discovered Turo does not allow you rent more than a single car at once. My idea of renting a scruffy-looking police-interceptor Ford Crown Victoria for only $18 a day was not possible -- so I was stuck with the more traditional choices at the rental counter.

For my airport reservation, I selected the "surprise me" option. Their idea of a surprise was a Hyundai Accent -- a surprise that's about as exciting as getting socks for Christmas. What did perk me up was discovering the car only had 7 original miles on it. Yes, you read that right: SEVEN miles. This poor little car was just delivered off the boat from Korea and getting its first taste of the world -- with Oversteer's village idiot behind the wheel.

Of course, I very much enjoyed peeling off all the protective wrapping still affixed to the interior and sniffing the new-car smell. I took the opportunity to perform my first-ever initial quality inspection -- which consisted of testing the handbrake at speed in a deserted parking lot several times. I am happy to report this Hyundai passed perfectly.

The car also performed very well for the coastal drive down to San Diego, but I was happy to park it for a few days to experience one of my dream cars: a 2008 Bullitt Edition Mustang.

These limited-production pony cars were built by Ford as a tribute to the 1968 Mustang in the iconic movie "Bullitt," starring Steve McQueen. Like the movie car, the special edition Bullitt Mustang models were debadged and finished in the same highland-green metallic paint -- though you could also get black. The car was transformed further by removing the rear spoiler and fitting vintage-looking wheels. And the interior was updated with gorgeous trim on the dashboard and an aluminum shifter. Ford could have stopped there and satisfied the masses, but they went even further with the transformation by doing one of the coolest things ever done with a special edition car.

The engineers at Ford painstakingly recreated the exhaust note in this modern muscle car to sound exactly like the 1968 Mustang in the original film. There was also a slight horsepower bump and some handling improvements from the regular Mustang GT, but the exhaust note is what made this car incredible.

I have always been crazy about anything Steve McQueen. My sunglasses, for example, are the exact same he often wore -- and I once hijacked a family photo session to recreate a famous shot of McQueen in his Jaguar XK-SS. I lusted after this Mustang since it was new but never had the opportunity to drive one -- until now.

I picked up the Bullitt I was renting, and I was shocked to discover it only had 5,800 original miles -- and it was in near-museum quality condition. I couldn't help but think the owner was nuts, renting a car like this to complete strangers. The only thing he asked was for me to "be careful."

This illustrates the downside of renting from Turo, because you actually meet the owner face-to-face -- and so you'd feel really guilty about thrashing their car. Handbrake turns are easy to do with a Hyundai Accent from a corporate rental agency -- but not with an investment-grade, limited-production car that would be extremely difficult to replace.

This didn't stop me from having a lot of fun. The nostalgic exhaust note coupled with a modern 5-speed manual transmission makes this car impossible not to drive aggressively. The styling of this generation of Mustang certainly lent itself well to this nostalgic treatment -- and, in my opinion, it actually improved the look.

To me, the equally nostalgic Shelby Mustang of the same era looks cluttered with its bodywork, spoilers and stripes. It certainly attracts attention, but it has a negative reputation around the Cars and Coffee circles. The only attention a Bullitt Mustang will attract is from people who know exactly what it is. I also think the Bullitt's power disadvantage to the Shelby is really an advantage. Countless YouTube videos have illustrated that having too much horsepower going to a rear-end that more closely resembles a Ford Model T than a Ford GT is not a good idea.

The only other way to accomplish this fantastic nostalgic feeling with modern performance and comfort is by building a resto-mod -- but this usually requires a six-figure budget. The Bullitt is a bargain in comparison, with a handful offered on Autotrader, ranging from $12,000 to $30,000.

At this point, it seems like the Bullitt has hit the bottom of the depreciation curve and is starting to inch up. But it's still not cheap enough for me to buy one. While I had a fantastic time with the Mustang, once the nostalgia wore off, I couldn't help but notice the hard plastic interior panels bore more of a resemblance to the Hyundai I also rented than to a 1968 Mustang. Given the time period, when this cheapness in materials was the norm for domestic cars, it was a well-done tribute -- but still a poor substitute for the real thing.

Ford has come a long way with interior quality in their latest-generation Mustang -- and with a new Bullitt edition rumored to be released next year, I'm sure I will find this upcoming iteration very difficult to resist.

Tyler Hoover went broke after 10 years in the car business and now sells hamburgers to support his fleet of needy cars. He lives in Wichita, Kansas.

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The 2008 Ford Mustang Bullitt Is the King of Cool Special Edition Pony Cars - Autotrader