Saturday, 14 November 2009

REVIEW: Pioneer 'Bullitt' Mustang

Pioneer 1968 Ford Mustang 390 GT
Steve McQueen 'Bullitt'


Direct from the Pioneer ‘Vehicle Data Card (VDC):
“It all begins with a glance in the rear view mirror and the click of a lap belt. What follows is the greatest car chase ever filmed. The Mustang 390 GT engages in a thrill-a-second, cat & mouse pursuit of the black Dodge Charger through the streets of San Francisco and out to the open highway.

In October 1968, Steve McQueen extended his considerable screen persona playing the role of Lieutenant Frank Bullitt in the Warner Bros. movie BULLITT. At the same time the Highland Green Mustang 390 GT would be forever granted the title of ‘The Greatest Chase Car in Cinema History’ – an accolade now maintained for over 40 years.

The BULLITT Mustang is regularly voted one of the most iconic movie cars of all time - exuding the essence of ‘car cool’. This was a regular 390 GT Mustang before the movie company added, removed and replaced stock fittings. The production company created an understated and enigmatic pursuit vehicle that has never been surpassed.

Two Mustangs were created for the chase scene with only one known to survive the rigors of filming. The mysterious whereabouts of the only surviving movie car simply adds to the mystique and continuing interest in this car. The appeal of BULLITT guarantees that this vehicle will always deserve its prime position amongst the true greats – a speeding legend.”

Some history and facts on the movie BULLITT from Wikipedia:
“Bullitt is a 1968 American thriller film starring Steve McQueen. It was directed by Peter Yates and distributed by Warner Bros. The story was adapted for the screen by Alan Trustman and Harry Kleiner, based on the novel titled Mute Witness (1963) by Robert L. Fish (aka Robert L. Pike). Lalo Schifrin wrote the original music score, a mix of jazz, brass and percussion.
The film won the Academy Award for Best Film Editing (Frank P. Keller) and was nominated for Best Sound. Writers Trustman and Kleiner won a 1969 Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America for Best Motion Picture Screenplay.

Bullitt is probably best-remembered for its car chase scene through the streets of San Francisco, regarded as one of the most influential car chase sequences in movie history. The scene had Bullitt in a dark "Highland Green" 1968 Ford Mustang 390 CID Fastback, chasing two hit-men in a "Tuxedo Black" 1968 Dodge Charger R/T 440 Magnum.

In 2007, Bullitt was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”

I can’t count how many times I’ve watched the famous BULLITT chase scene over the last 3 decades? I can still remember watching it with my Dad, the two of us glued to the television, jaws wide open as Steve McQueen tears up the streets of San Francisco! What makes the scene so legendary? Well it’s a scene I’ll watch with my son in a few years and we will both be glued to the television, jaws wide open as Steve McQueen tears up the streets of San Francisco once again! It’s a chase scene you want to watch again and again and again.

If you haven’t seen the infamous chase scene, (above) well then you’re in for something astonishing! Let me hand you over to Lieutenant Frank Bullitt, enjoy.

The Pioneer Bullitt Mustang display case reminds me of the previous rectangular Scalextric style display case (except with a grey base) with a crystal lid. Pioneer has gone the extra yard, (something you'll hear a lot during this review) and labelled the base impressively including yellow racing stripes.
As this is the first Pioneer I’m not sure if this will be the standard base labelling for future slots but it’s a good bet it will be. Unlike the Scalextric packaging, the slot is fixed to the base via a screw for safety in transit – a good move. The case also comes with a cover sleeve similar to what uses; the sleeve is well done including photos from the chase scene and Steve McQueen as Lt Frank Bullitt, a really nice touch.

It’s at this point I need to talk about some of the extra goodies you get with your Bullitt, yes goodies. Firstly Pioneer has released the slot with what they are calling the ‘Vehicle Data Card’ or ‘VDC’ for short. The VDC is a wax coated cardboard card that details the history and specifications of the 1:1 car, things such as body and engine modifications made specifically for the movie. No prizes for guessing that the Bullitt card is VDC#001 and we can assume that all future Pioneer releases will come with their own VDC as there is a small graphic under the VDC#001 numbering that says “Collect them all”.

Now the next goodie really impressed me, I’ve purchased hundreds of slot over the years, (including some worth 3 and 4 times the Pioneer Bullitt) and I’ve never been provided with such a comprehensive bag of spare parts for a slot. Sure its nice to receive a pair of spare guides with a Scalextric or a rear set of performance tires with a, (sometimes even an unpainted/undecaled rear tail) but Pioneer has taken things to the next level, inclusions are;
  • Full spare set of tires, (4)
  • Spare front bumper with decaled number plate
  • 2 spare windscreen wipers
  • Spare rear vision mirror
  • Spare guide (with long guide post for convenient braid replacement) and set of braids.
Given the rising cost of slot cars, I don’t think a manufacture providing you with a few spare parts is too much to expect. I can’t help but think some manufactures have a huge side business of selling replacement parts for slots that could have been designed to be more robust in the first place.
Well done Pioneer, hopefully others will follow your example.


Let’s face it; we will never have enough funds to buy all the slot cars we would like and unfortunately there are times we are forced to let one slip through our collection. So I thought I'd add a new section to my reviews regarding the value the slot car represents as a way of helping with the dilemma of, ‘Should I really get this slot?’

I’m going to keep this short. Since the introduction of the ‘Value for money’ section into my reviews it’s never been easier to categorically say ‘Yes, this slot represents great value for money, you should purchase one now’.

The P001 Mustang is an accurately detailed, well engineered, very collectible, high quality, well presented, fantastic track performer and as you know a slot with all those characteristics doesn’t come along every day.

Even if you’re not really into the 60’s American muscle cars, you need a Bullitt in your collection.

  • Length: 174mm
  • Width: 55mm
  • Height: 44mm
  • Crown Gear: 36 Tooth
  • Pinion Gear: 12 Tooth
  • Motor: Typhoon FC130 18000 side-mounted rear wheel drive configuration
  • Wheel Diameter: 12.4mm rims (front and rear)
  • Weight: 87 grams
  • Quick change braids, “Pull down, pull out, push in, push up. Job done.”
Something very interesting to ponder is that the Bullitt Mustang is part of the Pioneer ‘Screen Stars’ series. From this I think we can assume there may be other slots released in the ‘Screen Stars’ series, other than the 1968 Dodge Charger from Bullitt.

Perhaps other famous cars such as;
  • 1967 Fastback Mustang 500 GT ‘Eleanor’ from the movie ‘Gone in 60 Seconds’? (from 1974 and the 2000 remake)
  • 1977 Pontiac Trans Am from ‘Smokey and the Bandit’
  • 1970 Porsche 911S from the movie ‘Le Mans’
  • 1969 Dodge Charger used in the ‘Dukes of Hazzard’
All cult cars with huge followings, the list is endless. I think Pioneer is onto a really good thing here.


Paint finish on the Bullitt is very good with no sign of runs or imperfections. Pioneer have matched the ’highland’ green colour perfectly based on photos and movie footage. Small details such as chrome door surrounds, door handles and locks, driver and wheel nuts are well painted adding detail.

The driver figure has clearly been moulded and painted to reflect Lt. Frank Bullitt and I think Pioneer have done an excellent job with this. Take a close look at a driver figure from just about any other street slot's driver and you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.

As this a street car there is very little in the way of decals on the model, front and rear number plates and side reflectors are also decals. The front of the Bullitt is well detailed with bonnet vents, clear lights and indicators, silver bumper, number plate, wind screen wipers and the all important black mesh grill with silver surround.

As mentioned previously, the driver detail is excellent and having the driver’s hand on the gear stick is a nice touch. Steering wheel, gear stick, rear vision mirror, dash dials, seats, (even door trim and window winders) and round side rear vision mirror all look fantastic!

As in the movie the driver’s window is open while the passenger window is shut. Fortunately for us this allows the viewing of all this superb internal detail.

The side venting and intakes has been done accurately and really portrays the aggressive almost ‘predatory’ appearance of the Bullitt Mustang. As you would expect the rear detail is also impressive with twin exhaust pipes, decaled number plate, black surround tail lights, refuelling cap and boot lock.
The Bullitt’s wheels are sublime; if Pioneer don’t release these wheels as a separate part they are crazy. The green 5 spoke mags look fantastic and finish off the model perfectly.

An interesting Pioneer innovation is the quick braid system. When you look through your bag of spare parts the first thing you’ll notice is that the guide has a very long post. At first I wasn’t too sure why this was but later I realised this has been specifically designed to allow easy access to the guide for braid replacement.

The braids look similar to Carrera braids but are far easier to replace as you don’t have to pull the slot apart or remove the guide and disconnect wiring from the slot. Fantastic!
It’s thinking outside the box like this that show you Pioneer slots are designing and made by slot car enthusiasts not CAD technicians or bean counters!

Prior to P001s release, I read a forum article about the deliberation Pioneer was having over treaded wheels, should the Bullitt have them or not? Pioneer decided to go with a tread pattern to present the model as realistically as possible. One impressive story that highlights Pioneers commitment to model accuracy and detail, I’m sure there are hundreds of such stories.

Well the hundreds of deliberations have paid off; the Bullitt Mustang is one of the finest slot car I have ever seen. To think this is the first slot car Pioneer has released, we have exciting time ahead!


The Bullitt’s body is attached to the chassis via 6 screws (2 of the screws attach to the internal drivers tray) and can be quickly removed for adjustment and then easily assembled. The Bullitt is Digital Plug Ready ‘DPR’ and uses Scalextric Easy Fit Digital Plug, (reference part C8515) which can be quickly plugged in converting the car to digital although I did not test this as I have an analogue setup.
Let me make something clear from the start, this is a very quick slot! I’m not just talking about a slot that is quick down the straights, but a slot that is just as quick through technical, challenging sections of my layout (this slot eats reverse curves for breakfast!) This slot has been made for racing and with a name like ‘Bullitt’ that is a relief!

The Typhoon 18K motor (see below) has brisk acceleration and the chassis works very well through the corners. Magnetic down force is significant but not hindering to the fluidness of the slot like with some slots I have tested, (the McLaren comes to mind).

First impressions are very important and on the track the Bullitt Mustang is instantly impressive and very smooth. Basically I removed the slot from the box, put it on the track and I had a winner. No adjustment of braids, no correction of rear axle slop, no truing of tires, the Bullitt is truly a ‘ready to run’ slot car.

Speaking of first impressions, the stance of the Bullitt sitting on the track is awesome. Pioneer took a huge risk in my opinion making this car, the Bullitt Mustang is a cult car and nothing short of a perfect representation of the 1:1 car would have been accepted by fans.

My local hobby store currently has diecast models of the Bullitt Mustang and these static models have not captured the 1:1 car accurately, it’s amazing that a slot car has. Speaking with Jules, Pioneer estimates that around 30% of sales of the Bullitt have gone to people that don’t even have a slot car track! An amazing achievement in itself but it got me thinking; have Pioneer created a slot that will bring new members to this hobby we love so much?

I have always been a fan of street cars but the Bullitt isn’t really a street car is it? Once Pioneer release the Dodge Charger this street car becomes a race car, it’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing and that makes it very exciting.

Straight off the bat with less than 10 laps on board, the Bullit was running low 6 second laps. Any slot that runs 6 seconds on my track is very impressive. I wanted to see what the Bullitt was capable of, I decided to true the rear rubber which removed the detailed tire tread patterns, (fortunately the Bullitt comes with a spare set). I'd say that 90 percent of the rear rubber was in contact with the track FTB. As you would expect, track performance improved a little post truing.

There is a slight play (less than 1mm) in the rear axle so it was not necessary to shim the rear axle. The Bullitt is old school and doesn’t come with a floating motor pod so I decided to loosen the chassis/body screws a turn each to allow a bit of body roll. The body fits onto the chassis very well so this didn’t achieve a great degree of freedom. These are small things but they can add up.

Time to go back to the track and after an hour of running, the Bullitt was consistently achieving times in the mid 5 seconds range! Out of the 60 plus slots I have tested on my track, only 6 have run times around the mid 5 seconds putting the Bullitt in the top 10 percent of track performers bloody impressive!

So how does it run non magnetic I hear you say? Well let’s find out. Magnet removal is easy, the inside of the slot is very simple and although digital ready you aren’t presented with a sea of wiring upon opening the slot. Speaking of wiring, at first I thought I would have liked to see the Bullitt with lights but as it never had lights on during the movie chase scene, the slot would have looked different running on the track. I certainly don’t miss the additional wiring and weight lighting brings with it in this case.

With significant magnetic down force I was concerned the Bullitt would be lost once the magnet was removed. I’m happy to report that this is not the case. The Bullitt is every bit as impressive in non magnetic setup, in fact I would say many slotters will remove the magnet and never put it back in. The reason? I think the Bullitt looks better and more like the 1:1 car in the movie as it slides through turns, you can almost see the tire smoke as you power out of the corner!

The good news is you can have your cake and eat it too with magnetic setup, moving the magnetic to the front position (there are 2 positions, back being the default) and the Bullitt will still run fast times but will slide around a little.

I run Carrera track and have several hump sections installed and these did present a little trouble for the Bullit which would deslot when run quickly through these sections. I added a little weight (less than 5 grams - see photo above) up front and this solved the problem. I think once setup properly for non mag racing the Bullitt will become a race winner. Non magnetic times were consistently around the 7.6 second range, best time was 7.61.

As a comparison, this time beats my non mag Fly Porsche 911 GT1 EVO3 with alloy wheels, floating motor pod, etc., etc. with a retail price tag in the $AU100 plus range!

The 'Bullitt' Mustang is a very exciting and highly anticipated maiden release from Pioneer and for good reasons; this is a very special slot car.

It reminds me of when released the Audi R8C or when Fly released the very first Viper, events that define the evolution of slot cars in our hobby. Pioneer's Mustang does just that, it evolves our hobby by setting new standards in attention to detail and finish. Pioneer is clearly a company that thinks outside the box and listens to the slot community with both ears.

Pioneer has shown they are prepared to go to extreme lengths with respect to detail and finish and have engineered a very drivable, lighting quick slot car. If you don't have one of these in your collection you're crazy!

Manic Score Breakdown
  • Sex Appeal: 7th Gear
  • Collectability: 7th Gear
  • Build Quality/Engineering: 6th Gear
  • Attention to Detail: 7th Gear
  • 'RTR' Performance: 7th Gear
Overal Manic Score: 6.8 Gears - Equal highest review score ever!

There are a few desktop wallpapers of Pioneer's 'Bullitt' Mustang 390 GT which you can find on the Wallpapers 2 Page Here

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1 comment :

XFroggy said...

Great review, it's indeed a very nie car. Mine arrived 2 weeks ago. After installing the Eay Fit decoder from Scalextric it performs very well on my track. It's the fastest car of my digital collection.