The Mustang has a long cinematic history, but the Mustang in John Wick still stands out. More than an attractive piece of set dressing, the Mustang is integral to the movie’s plot. It’s also one of the few clues we’re given about John Wick’s personality.
We’re first introduced to Iossef, our villain, when he notices John Wick fueling up his Mustang. Wick, who has just lost his wife, is preparing for a joyride with his new puppy. Iossef comments that it’s a 1970 Boss 429, but John quickly corrects him and says it’s actually a 1969.
The real answer is a lot more complicated.
Is John Wick’s Mustang a 1969 Boss 429?
In the story, we’re told the Mustang is a 1969 Boss 429. By John Wick, who doesn’t seem predisposed to lie in any other scene. Though the Boss 429 is an automotive icon, it’s also extremely rare. In 1969, only 859 were produced.
Even if the movie crew wanted to get a Boss 429 for shooting, it would have been impossible. They needed 5 identical cars for shooting. Given that the Boss 429 routinely goes for over $400,000 at auctions, there was no way they would have been able to get 5 without going over budget. Most automotive collectors would have been disinclined to sell to the movie crew once they knew the fate of the vehicles (all 5 were totaled).
A Dressed-Up Mach 1
Instead, the film studio purchased Mach 1 Mustangs. Over 70,000 1969 Mach 1s were manufactured, making them significantly easier to get than Boss 429s. But these Mach 1s weren’t exactly left stock. Several details were added and the cars were modded to create a Mustang that’s unique to the film.
The result is…
The Hitman Mustang
The modified Mach 1s resulted in a Mustang that’s sometimes referred to as “the Hitman.” This Mustang borrows styling details from 1969-1970 Boss 429 and Mach 1 Mustangs. Here are some of the key features that make John Wick’s Mustang special.
The Boss 429 was never available with an automatic transmission, but when we’re shown the shifter it’s clear that this Boss 429 is. We’re never shown Wick “fake shifting” so the movie seems fairly committed to the fact that it is a Boss 429 with an automatic transmission.
Considering Wick is a hitman, this makes sense. You can’t exactly shift and shoot at the same time. We can assume then that the car has been heavily modified.
Exposed Hood Pins
Exposed hood pins were originally a feature on the 1969 Mach 1. The Boss 429 Mustangs never had them, and the 1970 Mach 1 had gone to a hidden-style hood pin. Hood pins are an easy enough modification to make, and Wick could have even done this one at home.
The Boss 429’s hood scoop was known primarily for its size. It was, without a doubt, the largest hood scoop ever produced for a Mustang. In 1969, that hood scoop was body colored, and in 1970 the hood scoop came in a matte black.
The Hitman Mustang on the other hand, has a smaller hood scoop, more in-line with the Mach 1’s. But in 1969, Mach 1s had an entirely black hood, whereas Wick’s Mustang has a slender black stripe around its hood scoop.
The final hood scoop ends up most resembling the 1970 Mach 1’s, though the striping pattern is different. It’s likely that the entire hood was swapped.
Integrated Fog Lights
Wick’s Mustang has fog lights mounted inside the grille. This was only available on the Mach 1 or Boss 429 in 1969. By 1970, two small air vents had replaced the headlight location and the fog lights were moved.
Protruding Aluminum Rocker Panel
The only Boss or Mach Mustang with a protruding rocker panel molding was the 1970 Mach 1. In ‘69 the Mach 1 had a mid-body side stripe. The Boss Mustangs never had any sort of rocker decoration.
What’s interesting is that Wick’s Mustang doesn’t have any kind of visible nameplate. Whether it’s a Boss 429 or a Mach 1, Wick has clearly taken the initiative to remove any kind of badging. Likely in an attempt to prevent people like Iossef from starting up a conversation.
Shelby Steering Wheel
Wick’s Mustang has a wood-grain steering wheel. The center is riveted, with a plain black center. This steering wheel didn’t come standard on Mach 1 or Boss 429 Mustangs. It did come pretty much exclusively on Shelby Mustangs though.
The spoiler featured on the back of John Wick’s Mustang came on the Mach 1, but it was also optional on the Boss Mustangs. On the other hand, those matte black rear stripes weren’t available on the Mach 1s or the Boss Mustangs
So, What Is Wick’s Mustang?
The answer isn’t as straight-forward as it might seem. Sure, we know that “off-camera” they were Mach 1s. But “off-camera” Keanu Reeves isn’t a real hitman. The question really is what type of Mustang does John Wick drive in the movie?
1969 is definitely the correct year. Of all the possible modifications, changing out the headlights and side scoops would have been more trouble than it was worth. Also, Wick specifically says ‘69.
One of the characters, Aurelio, owns what appears to be the world’s highest end chop shop. In the few shots we get from around the shop, we can see a Ford GT, a Chevy Super Sport, and a Dodge Charger. This shop specializes in unique and valuable vehicles.
Aurelio was willing to punch a mob boss’ son in the face for John Wick. He also recognized Wick’s Mustang immediately. From this, we can gather that he’s a loyal friend, and has seen the Mustang before. It seems reasonable to conclude that Aurelio likely did the tricky manual to automatic transmission swap for Wick.
The automatic transmission was likely a necessary modification, given Wick’s line of work. The hood scoop and debadging would also help with keeping a low profile.
It makes sense that the Mustang is intended to be a 1969 Boss 429. Like John Wick himself, the car has been deliberately outfitted to look like less than it is. Wick seems unlikely to take his Mustang to shows, so it's clear he’s abandoned a Concours-correct restoration in favor of one that matches his unusual lifestyle.
Ultimately, the Hitman Mustang is as unique and understated as John Wick.
Image Credit: Creative Commons
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