Jay Leno takes Steve McQueen's 'Bullitt' Mustang for a spin

George Back
Producer, Yahoo Entertainment

Jay Leno’s Garage was all about movie cars Thursday night. They reenacted the famous scene from James Bond: The Spy Who Loved Me using the new Lotus Evora 400. And they also took John Travolta’s systematic, hydromatic, and ultramatic Grease Lightning for a spin. But the original Bullitt Mustang stole the show.

Leno began by driving the 475 horsepower 2019 Mustang Bullitt. “I have to admit it makes me smile,” he said. “When you get behind the wheel … you feel like Steve McQueen. … It’s really fascinating.”

While Leno was in the new Mustang, the original from 1968 pull up behind him. “There’d been rumors about it being found in someone’s barn; somebody else said it was in Mexico,” he said. “But after 50 years of being out of sight, here’s the untouched, unrestored, just as McQueen left it.”

The car went “missing” after a man named Bob Kiernan paid $6,000 for it in 1974. McQueen tracked him down and asked to buy it back, but Kiernan refused to part with the vehicle.

The car was only on the road for a few more years. “The car was always a problem, my mom and dad always said, as far as registering it, because it has no reverse lights,” said Kiernan’s son Sean. “The exhaust is extremely loud. Certain things front to back about the car that New Jersey didn’t like. They didn’t want it on the road. That’s kind of what parked it. And I think it just kind of accidentally became a secret.”

When he heard about the new Mustang Bullitt, Sean revealed that he had come into possession of the car after his father died. He got the auto — which is valued at $4 million — running and plans to display it to the public. He said, “I want people to experience this car, the story from the beginning to the end, just like I have.”

Jay Leno’s Garage airs Thursdays at 10 p.m. CNBC.

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