History was made on January 10th when the 1968 Bullitt Mustang – the actual ‘hero’ car, driven by Steve McQueen in the iconic film – went across the block at the Mecum auction in Kissimmee, Florida. The S-code big-block, four-speed car, complete with all provenance and history since the 1968 film was shot, hammered for $3.4 million; that’s $3,740,000 including premiums, making it the most valuable Mustang in the world.
Heading to the USA this year? Specialist insurers, Hagerty, have extended their DriveShare programme to include drivers from the UK. This scheme, much like AirBnB, allows Brits to rent privately owned classics when visiting America, with full Hagerty insurance cover, naturally. Choose from more than 2,000 classic cars and trucks to modern muscle, luxury cars and SUVs, though you must be over 25. See www.driveshare.com for details.
At the very tail-end of 2019, we received some very bad news from Brendan McCarth, of American Auto Club International.
“It is with regret that I have to inform you that, as of the end of , the AACI will be no more. As you are all aware, our main purpose has been to raise money for the children’s charity, When You Wish Upon a Star, and to do so, we held three events each year at Billing Aquadrome. As of this month, we will no longer be doing events at that venue due to the financial issues for us within the revised contracts for 2020 and forwards. We are in no position to, and nor do I wish to, debate the shoulds and coulds; business plans change and it is their venue to do with whatever they feel is good for their business. But it won’t work for us.
“Since I have no desire to work for anyone ex gratis (other than the AACI for which I, and others in the events team have done for 11 years) the only alternative is to close. Existing members will be able to claim their membership fee back from us, and a letter showing how to do this will be sent out in due course to each of you. Whatever monies are left over will be donated, as always, to When You Wish Upon a Star.
“We would like to thank everyone, members or not, who have supported us over the years at our events at Northampton. It hasn’t always been ideal; it’s always been hard work, sometimes fun and sometimes a little too much like hard work. Nonetheless, the people always turned out no matter what, and we can only hope that you were, for the most part, happy with how we did things. We’ve met a whole lot of really nice people through all of this and made solid, lasting friendships along the way. I’ll no doubt catch up with some of you at the American vehicle events elsewhere in the country, next season. All the best for 2020.”
March 14th, 1940 – December 16th, 1969
E.J. “Bill” Simpson is a very well known name in motor racing the world over. After being seriously injured in a drag racing crash in 1958, he pioneered the use of parachutes to slow drag cars. This grew into Simpson Performance Products, making helmets and safety gear that has probably saved more racing drivers from injury (or worse) than any other.
Bill was due to appear at the British Drag Racing Hall of Fame awards ceremony on November 23rd to collect the Mopar sponsored Lifetime Achievement award. Illness prevented him making the trip. On December 13th, he suffered a stroke, and died three days later. He was 79. Generations of racers owe Bill a great deal; many owe him their lives.
Ford USA are celebrating 2019 as the 10th straight year of being America’s best-selling motor brand with just shy of 2.5 million sales. This is helped a great deal by F-series pick-ups being the best-selling trucks for 43 straight years – Ford sells two F-series trucks per minute. Car sales, meanwhile, are plummeting – down 28% on 2018.
Just before Christmas, Fiat-Chrysler Automobiles and Groupe PSA agreed a 50/50 merger that will make them fourth largest global OEM by volume and the third largest by revenue. This means that Dodge, Chrysler, Jeep, Ram Trucks, Fiat, Alfa Romeo, Lancia, Maserati, Peugeot, Citroen, Opel, Vauxhall and DS are all now under the same umbrella.