Simo Mihajlovic’s 1967 Ford Mustang: Bullitt influence, unique execution
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Simo Mihajlovic’s 1967 Ford Mustang: Bullitt influence, unique execution

By DrJohnWright - 08 January 2024

Despite the BULIT67 number plates, Simo Mihajlovic’s immaculate Mustang fastback was not created specifically as a tribute to the car so famously raced through the streets of San Francisco by Steve McQueen’s Detective Frank Bullitt. For starters, this is a 1967 model not a 1968 and secondly the colour is Dark Moss Green not the more olive/black Highland Green of McQueen fame. (Incidentally, when Ford reimagined the Bullitt Mustang in 2018 the Ford marketing executives wanted to produce it in Highland Green exclusively but dealers insisted some variety be offered!)

The Bullitt Mustang (actually, there were two of them) was Highland Green, a more olive/black shade. McQueen doesn’t look too concerned about the cosmetics.
Image: Jordan Leist

Like just about any car enthusiast over the age of maybe 30, Simo loves Bullitt with its unforgettable chase when McQueen himself pilots the Mustang. Two identical Highland Green 1968 models were used. Arguably, just about everything else in the movie is forgettable, although I treasure the way McQueen delivers the line: ‘You believe what you want. You work your side of the street, and I’ll work mine.’ It feels a lot like the actor is playing a version of himself almost as if in rehearsal for Le Mans (1971).

Lowdown rear three-quarter shot shows car’s crouched stance to great effect.
Image: Jordan Leist

Inevitably then, Bullitt was a major sub-text when Simo came to writing his own Mustang story. This is essentially Simo’s interpretation of the car he had wanted since he first saw a fastback edition in his teenage years. ‘I was travelling on a tram in Melbourne when I saw this guy’s car in his front yard. I was in year 10 or 11 and I didn’t know what it was. But I hopped off the tram to have a look. I knew straight away that one day I would own one of my own.’

(I was 14 when the Mustang came out, initially as a 1964 ½ model in hardtop and convertible guises with the fastback following months later. It was the fastback I fell forever in love with, too.)

The Mustang is such a fixture in Simo’s life that he’s no longer sure how long he has owned the car but reckons it’s about 10 years.

This is not his first foray into classic car ownership. Twenty or so years ago he owned a VL Walkinshaw Group A Commodore, which he sold to raise a deposit for a house. This was before Walkinshaw prices went crazy. Simo really loved that Commodore. Although he grew up loving Holdens, he doesn’t classify himself in either the Holden or Ford camp.

Having moved from Melbourne to marry Nikola Perth-girl Nikola and having bought the family home, the time rolled around for Simo to pursue his long-held dream of acquiring a late-1960s Mustang fastback.

Doubtless this is one of the coolest profiles in the automotive world of 1967!
Image: Jordan Leist

He decided to import a car from the US because that way he would have more choice. ‘I wanted a car with a good body. Some collectors spend $60K or even more on restoring the bodywork.’ Simo was also a bit fussy about colours and looked at many cars. ‘I really liked the Dark Moss Green,’ he says. Eventually, he chose this example because the body was good and boasted a strengthened sub-frame, meaning all the important structural work had been done. The Mustang came with a swag of receipts – some $30-$40K US worth. ‘I don’t think very many people were importing cars back then and I was able to negotiate him down.’

In his own words, he didn’t want ‘to create half an Eleanor’. The aim was to retain the period character – and what a period it was in automotive history! – with a resto-mod feel, and he has succeeded 100 per cent! Simo’s own touches include the colour-coded bumpers, deeper front valance and the larger bonnet scoop from a 1969 model. Farrace Custom and Classic Restoration in Perth handled the bodywork and did a fantastic job. Note the inspired choice of XB Falcon side mirrors.

Cabin is so evocative of the late 1960s with all-black trim, bucket seats, a full set of gauges and that snake-charming Hurst shifter!
Image: Jordan Leist

The interior remains pretty much the way the Mach 1 emerged from the factory with trademark black trim and that charismatic curving Hurst shifter. (In an Australian context of HR Holdens, how fantastic was the Hurst, which soon found its way into the original Ford Falcon XR GT!). Simo got the new dash and centre console from C.J. Pony Parts.

And, ladies and gentlemen, this is what a full-house Windsor 351 looks like!
Image: Jordan Leist

Unfortunately, the driving experience did not match the aesthetic promise. Beneath the bonnet sat what Simo describes as a ‘cheap crate motor’. Despite taking it to various specialists, this unit just could not be coaxed into performing properly, so he made the decision to start again using the existing 351 Windsor block but essentially sourcing all new components.

Brian at Outlaw Performance did all the work. The Windsor was stroked and is equipped with forged pistons. With AFR cylinder heads and a Holley Sniper carburettor, it makes upwards of 630 horsepower but, more importantly, delivers colossal torque across a wide rpm range. The car, says, Simo, drives magnificently with very strong performance and a great exhaust note.

Brian also helped with a completely upgraded suspension and braking system. It has coil-overs all-round and four-link rear end. Beneath the classic US alloy wheels reside Baer slotted and cross-drilled brakes.

No detail has been overlooked in this brilliant build.
Image: Jordan Leist

‘It’s just amazing, the styling, everything,’ he says with palpable delight. ‘I get plenty of compliments.’

Unlike the Walkinshaw (which you sense Simo still regrets having parted with), the Mustang will probably never move out of the family. You get the feeling the car is very much part of their family life. Simo’s wife, Nikola, is incredibly supportive of his automotive passion. ‘She knows exactly how much I’ve spent and how much the car means to me.’ The couple have two boys, Zak (10) and Jordan, six. ‘I think the boys will have to fight over it,’ says Simo.

Image: Jordan Leist

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