Wild Horses: Bullitt, Steve McQueen and why going fast is cool
Hands down, one of the best movie car chases of all time has to be the Steve McQueen Mustang-Charger chase from “Bullitt.” Those cars absolutely tore up the streets of San Francisco, and did it at real speed too – up to 110 mph in some cases – in all its genuine scary, slippery and fishtailing glory. Once that seat belt buckled there was no music, no extraneous sound effects, yelling or even snappy patter – just huge engines controlled by determined men out to get each other. Awesome. Mustang had a pretty fine legacy by that time already but there’s little doubt it grew ten sizes more once audiences tried to sit through that iconic scene.
Back in 2005 Ford tried to dig up some of the “King of Cool’s” buzz by re-animating a long dead McQueen to star in a sort of Field of Dreams spot where a clean cut tractor dude goes and builds a single-lane racetrack in his cornfield to blast around with his new Mustang. Well lo and behold who shows up but the man, Steve McQueen, walking out from the stalks to step in and drive the new 2005 Mustang for himself (Interesting aside, the cornfield was actually in Chilliwack, BC and the Steve McQueen lookalike was some guy from Abbotsford named Mark). “McQueen” does his duty and puts the ‘stang through its paces, proving true the movie adage that “if you build it he will come” (Check it out on the side) but McQueen was more striking than the car which is not so good when you’re trying to move some metal.
Anyway, here we are getting set for Mustang’s all-new 2011 version – a, comparatively, gas-sipping V6 that manages to turn out some 305 horsepower, adding more than a little slam to the existing Mustang bam. The commercial is in your face aggressive and honestly made me feel like a wuss for not owning a muscle car of some kind.
The spot opens with a sparse downshot as the music rumbles to a start. The voice has whiny, bluesy feel to it that just works. Next we get some teasing shots of the car to come as the music builds. We’re still moving with some pace, nothings been let out of the cage yet. The song, “Light of the Morning” by Band of Skulls grows as the Mustang takes center stage. The car is tripped out in an almost gun-metal hue with flat black rims on huge tires. The streets seem early morning deserted as the cars rips and roars around, leaving the viewer in its wake. The camera follows it, almost like we’re chasing it down as this beast just keeps on moving, turning, racing. We get interior shots of all the goodies it has and even a few brush-on statements that mark its fuel and engine bona fides. The car is lean and mean and by the time the spot ends on the tagline of “Drive one” I can say without reserve that I would absolutely like nothing better. Damn right I wanna drive one.
How cars became such a primal purchase I’ll never know. Maybe it has something to do with the notion of going fast and looking cool. The best hunter had to be the one who was faster than everyone else. And if he could yell louder and had nice cheekbones too then I‘ll just bet that Turoktong had his choice of the ladies. So, if by extension the car to own is the one with the fastest time off the line and the wickedest growl from the guts, it’s no wonder this commercial got me twitching back and forth on the couch. The heart knows what it wants and apparently I have a deep-seated desire to strap on some classic Detroit muscle and crank up the stereo loud so I can go fast and look cool. Hey, I may never be Steve McQueen (or even that dude from Abbotsford) but I’ll feel like one helluva an alpha- warrior nestled snug within the cockpit of a fighter jet like this.
Even with mileage as good as this Mustang claims, we all know it’s not practical to own a car that gulps any excess gas these days. We’re all supposed to be prudent and wise and sensible with our transportation choices, so we are told to zip around on electric scooters or in hybrid cars. I remember when driving was fun and not a chore. Is it so wrong to want that back again? I don’t think so and I bet our man Bullitt would feel the same way too.