Emotion Beats Efficiency

David S.
By David S. Wallens
Feb 12, 2018 | Ford | Posted in Columns | From the April 2018 issue | Never miss an article

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It’s a cold Sunday early in 2018 and, as many of us can agree, things have been a bit strained lately. The winter’s been bitter cold, Hawaiians have braced for annihilation, and Georgia, my alma mater, has lost a heartbreaker of a game at the buzzer.

A small glimmer of hope: I just happened to catch Ford’s latest TV ad. It doesn’t tout connectivity, technology or efficiency. And it’s not trying to make an SUV seem like a suitable alternative to a sports car, no matter how many paddle shifters it has.

The tagline for this one is easier to swallow:


The spot is simple. Clean. Just a Highland Green Mustang, the sound of an open exhaust, and the joy of a manual gearbox.

No specs.

No details.

No price info.

Steve McQueen’s “Bullitt” changed the way we look at car chases. It was gritty, exciting and authentic. No soundtrack. No dialog. Who cared that the film’s plot was a little hard to follow? We also didn’t mind that the same VW Beetle got passed more than once, or that the bad guys’ Dodge Charger lost like five or eight hubcaps.

We as gearheads had our “Lawrence of Arabia.” It was a classic 50 years ago, and I’m sure it will be a classic 50 years from now. Credit also has to go to the star-studded cast that included fellow Hollywood legends Jacqueline Bisset, Robert Duvall and Norman Fell. Robert Vaughn played Walter Chalmers, an absolute bastard of a politician.

Ford paid homage to the original more than a decade and a half ago with the release of the 2001 Mustang Bullitt. Another followed for the 2008-’09 model years, this one working nicely with the S197 Mustang’s retro sheet metal. In both cases, buyers got a little more power, a little less chrome, and a little lower ride height. The icing on the cake: wheels that nicely recalled the Torq Thrusts found on the original. Specs for the forthcoming one haven’t yet been released, but I found some more info on Ford’s site: “a top speed of 163 mph and projected at least 475 hp.” The current Mustang GT makes an impressive 460 horsepower, so the trend continues.

Is the Bullitt the most logical Mustang? No, faster options have existed–and still do. I don’t see the Bullitt outrunning the latest Shelby GT350. I also don’t see it getting better economy than the EcoBoost models. And we all know that the Bullitt will sell for more than a GT.

But like its predecessors, this one is based on something else: emotion. It’s that snarl, plus a nod to the past and perhaps a little mystery.

I admit that I can be way too logical. You should see me shop for a TV. Or tires for our car. Lots of research. Lots of reading. I recently spent nearly an entire evening just debating with myself: Which boots to get? The final choice came down to two that are nearly identical. Still, I had to anguish over the details.

The love of cars shouldn’t be so logical. That’s for grownups. Why does my garage contain the GRM Holy Trinity of a Miata, an M3 and a 911? Because it does, I guess. There’s always something faster, roomier, more efficient or whatever, and I know that I’m just preaching to the choir.

So let’s all step back and look at this new Bullitt from 50,000 feet up or however that boardroom-speak saying goes: In a day where self-driving electric cars have moved from sci-fi to real-sci, here’s a major company using emotion to promote a new car.

Perhaps the automotive future isn’t so sterile after all.

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View comments on the GRM forums
eastsideTim UltraDork
2/12/18 11:20 a.m.

They had one this past weekend at the Cincinnati Auto Expo.  I’m not sure how, but it made the droopy 2018 front end styling refresh look decent.

ebonyandivory UberDork
2/12/18 11:24 a.m.

I was actually watching the Bullitt chase scene as my second Yukon was totaled in my driveway .

I appreciated your reference to self-driving cars. I wrote here about how I was given a new Mercedes convertible for the night last summer and I couldn’t wait to get back in my 1995 F150.


There should always be an emotional attachment to at least one vehicle in your life. If not, it’ll be gnawing at you until you give in.

APEowner GRM+ Memberand HalfDork
2/12/18 12:24 p.m.
ebonyandivory said:

I was actually watching the Bullitt chase scene as my second Yukon was totaled in my driveway .

You are probably the only person on the planet who can truthfully make that statement.

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