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Book Review – Bullitt: The Cars & People Behind Steve McQueen

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Few films have influenced the cinematic representation of automobiles like Bullitt has. The classic 1968 crime thriller contains one of the most noteworthy, unforgettable car chases ever put on film. Much like McQueen’s other motor-centric movies (like Le Mans), the stories from the set and in the aftermath of Bullitt‘s creation are even more enthralling than what was seen on screen.

Endeavoring to create the ultimate compendium of Bullitt‘s production and legacy, automotive expert Matt Stone has gathered numerous facts, photos, and anecdotes for his new book, Bullitt: The Cars and People Behind Steve McQueen. With decades of experience in automotive journalism, Stone has created a thorough, loving look behind the scenes of Bullitt that’s a must-read for any fan.

Bullitt: The Cars and People
Behind Steve McQueen
by Matt Stone

Product Details: Hardcover, 192 pages
Retail Price: $42.95
Size: 7″ x 10″
Publication Date: September 2020
ISBN: 9781613255292
Publisher: CarTech Books

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Summary of the book’s contents

After opening with a foreword by Steve’s son Chad McQueen and a personal introduction by the author, both recounting their own experiences with the film, the book begins by tracing the Bullitt’s inception and what factors brought it to being. Much of this background involves McQueen’s enthusiasm for racing, so the opening chapter is a fitting introduction to the actor and his career.

From there, the following chapters chronicle the making of the film, focusing heavily on the cars used in the film (such as the 1968 Ford Mustang GT390 fastback) and how the driving stunts were staged and executed. Stone provides a wealth of details about each vehicle’s particular origin and how McQueen modified the vehicles for optimal on-screen performance. These accounts are accompanied by an abundance of rare production photos, down to even the original build sheets for the cars.

After describing the creation of the 10-minute scene in detail, Stone follows (as best he can, with so many pieces of the puzzle still unknown) the journey of the iconic vehicles after leaving the set, winding up in vastly different venues and falling into obscurity — until their eventual rescue.

The book concludes with an examination of Ford’s official Bullitt Edition Mustangs and the many other ways the film has been celebrated over the years.

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Evaluation: Is this a worthy tribute to the film?

If there’s anything you’ve ever wanted to know about Bullitt’s famous chase through the streets of San Francisco and the fate of McQueen’s on-screen cars, this is the source to find it.

Every inch of the 192 pages is packed with material — almost overwhelmingly so. The pages are crowded with archive photos and lengthy captions amid the comprehensive body text, squeezing in as much content as possible. That’s a testament to how much work Stone did to create this definitive tome, but it could have been laid out better on the page, especially in ways that distinguished the main text from sidebars and captions.

It’s also not written for those with a casual interest. Stone delves into every detail he uncovered about the movie and its automotive stars. Bullitt definitely requires a cover-to-cover read-through rather than a fleeting coffee table perusal.

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Final thoughts: Should You Buy It or Borrow It?

If you consider Bullitt one of your favorite movies. there’s no question that you need to purchase this book. You’re not going to find another publication that’s as saturated with hard-to-find photographs, first-hand accounts, and detailed schematics. It’s an exhaustive resource for true fans.

If you aren’t familiar with Bullitt or were only mildly interested in the film when you viewed it, this may be an intimidating introduction. There’s a lot of material here, and it’s not very approachable for a beginner still becoming familiar with the film. Start by rewatching Bullitt first.

And if you’re a gearhead and you’ve never watched Bullitt, what are you waiting for?

Bullitt: The Cars and People Behind Steve McQueen is available through the publisher’s websiteAmazon, and other book retailers.

Product provided for review by the publisher.

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