Ralph Garcia Jr. makes a good living at his Los Angeles-area body shop, restoring old Ford Mustangs into replicas of “Eleanor,” the car made famous by the 2000 Nicolas Cage movie Gone in 60 Seconds. But recently, Garcia hit the real jackpot.
An associate of Garcia’s located a 1960s Mustang in a Mexican junkyard and thought it was a good candidate for an “Eleanor” restoration. Garcia checked the car’s vehicle identification number (VIN) and realized that one of the biggest missing car mysteries in Hollywood might have been solved.
The 1968 Steve McQueen film Bullitt, which contains what many movie critics consider to be the best car chase scene of all time, featured two identical 1968 Mustang GT Fastbacks. One was the show car used for cruising-around-town scenes, and the other was the stunt car, specially modified for speeding down city streets, stomach-churning jumps, and other car chase staples. The show car is owned by a private collector; the stunt car was considered one of the world’s most desirable missing cars, along with James Dean’s 1955 Porsche Spyder and James Bond’s 1965 Aston Martin DB5 from Goldfinger.
After checking the VIN, Garcia was pretty sure that his associate had found the Bullitt stunt car. Modifications to the car, including a beefed-up suspension and mounts for cameras and lights used in filming, further proved this theory.
At this point, Garcia called in an expert – Kevin Marti, widely considered to be the authority on classic Fords – who confirmed that this was indeed the movie mystery car. Garcia is believed to be restoring the Mustang, even though Marti says it would be worth more in its junkyard state (hard to believe, right?). Garcia says the restored car could show up at one of the big auto auction houses like Barrett-Jackson in the near future – we’ll keep an eye out for it and let you know! Auto historian Ken Gross calls the Stang the “Holy Grail of the Mustang car crowd” and says it could easily be worth a cool million at auction.
If you’ve never seen the Bullitt chase scene, you can check it out below. When you consider that special effects were still in their in their infancy in the sixties, and that Steve McQueen did much of his own stunt driving through the hilly streets of San Francisco, this thrilling chase becomes even more amazing.
Photo by: Nick Ares