Each week we'll let two silver screen automotive icons face off and let you decide which stays and which one goes home, tailpipe between their legs. That's right, it's like an online Thunderdome — except without the death thing. We call it the "Star Car Shootout." Let's get ready to rumble.
Last week we had the inaugural match of Star Car Shootout, in which the James Bond's Lotus Esprit from The Spy Who Loved Me went head-to-head against the Lamborghini Countach from Speed Zone in a battle to decide which big screen star was cooler. We've counted the votes, and with most of the precincts now reporting, Jalopnik projects that the Lotus has won.
This week, we've got another big-shot superstar facing off against a relative underdog. Appropriately for our whole "Which is cooler?" hook, both cars co-starred with the "King of Cool" himself, Steve McQueen. Now, while McQueen certainly surrounded himself with some impressive rides over the years, for this shootout we had to pick just two of them. The others will have to wait their turn. So for this match, we're pitting the Ford Mustang 390 GT from Bullitt against the Porsche 911S 2.2L from Le Mans. Yes, you're now probably already visualizing those scenes in your head, but just in case you aren't, we've got the clips after the jump.
Start talking about Steve McQueen's cars, and the first one that'll come to mind for most people is the Dark Highland Green 1968 Ford Mustang from Bullitt. Thing is, McQueen never actually owned the car. Of course, that doesn't disqualify the 'stang for this contest, but it does raise an interesting question. Did McQueen even particularly like the Mustang? His personal garage was filled mostly with European sports cars, not American muscle. Watching the chase scene, you'll notice that neither the Charger nor the Mustang take turns all that well. It's even been said that the shot of the 'stang overcooking one of the corners wasn't planned at all. Though I suppose if I'm going to start critiquing the film too closely, I would also have to start counting green VW Beetles, and I really don't want to do that. Besides, this isn't some class for a film student; we're here for the car. And it must be said the dark Mustang fastback with a 390ci V8 looks and sounds fantastic. It's an automotive icon. But there's a problem with that. Being famous to a degree is cool, but being a tool for a marketing department is not. In recent years, Ford has made not just one "special edition" Bullitt Mustang, but two. Which means that you really don't have to be "in the know" to know about the car. It's like having your favorite rock band from the '60s all of a sudden become hugely popular again. You like the music still, but the all the teenage fans, the Broadway musicals, and the appearances on daytime television just sort of ruin the cool factor.
Unlike the Mustang, McQueen actually owned the '70 Porsche 911 S from Le Mans. He wanted a car to drive around in Europe while he was shooting the film, so he bought the Porsche, and when shooting was finished, he had it sent back to America. Now sure, there's no on-screen hoonage starring the 911, but you can only imagine that McQueen drove the snot out of the thing when he was off-camera. But that's not the point—this car was was cool not because it drove around jumping over hills and chasing baddies. The 911 is cool because it is understated and relaxed; it's what the tormented race car driver drove when, as McQueen's character famously put it in the film, he was "just waiting" between races. It has what the Mustang lacks: inconspicuousness. You really need to be obsessed with cars to appreciate the Porsche. For example, the current owner of the 911 was a Porsche collector who bought the car a few years ago without even knowing that it was in the Le Mans film; he just liked the car. Watch it cruise through France and you can't help but like it too.