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Motoring round-up: McQueen’s Mustang Bullitt gets a reboot; Are you a middle-lane hog?; and the Land Rover that ‘started it all’

Celebrity endorsement: Ford's new Mustang Bullit PICTURE: PA

■ Ford Mustang Bullitt revives a star of the screen for the street

A 50th anniversary edition of the Bullitt Mustang was Ford’s surprise reveal at its conference last night.

The brand kicked off the North American International Auto Show with the car designed to honour its predecessor, which was made famous by Steve McQueen in the film of the same name.

McQueen’s actress granddaughter, Molly, introduced the new Mustang Bullitt — complete with characteristic Highland Green paint — to the crowds alongside the original, one of only two Bullit Mustangs from 1968.

‘This new Bullitt is, as Steve McQueen was, effortlessly cool’

To meet the performance credentials expected of a big-screen star, the new car is equipped with a retuned version of the standard car’s 5.0-litre V8 engine that will deliver at least 468bhp and 650Nm of torque. This makes it even more powerful than the latest Mustang GT by 14bhp, while its top speed is 8mph higher, too.

Featuring a manual transmission with a white cue ball shift knob as a nod to the original, it’s as raucous as a modern Mustang can be thanks to an active valve performance exhaust system, modified to give the car a signature sound.

A nod to other design features of the film car have also been included but with some modern luxuries, such as a heated leather steering wheel and a 12-inch all-digital LCD instrument cluster. The latter matches the one introduced on the 2018 Mustang, but with a unique Bullitt welcome screen that starts in green with an image of the car rather than the pony logo. Most noticeably, the front end has been debadged, removing the identifying silver Mustang.

Darrell Behmer, Mustang chief designer, said: ‘This new Bullitt is, as Steve McQueen was, effortlessly cool. As a designer, it’s my favourite Mustang — devoid of stripes, spoilers and badges. It doesn’t need to scream about anything, it’s just cool.’

It’s unknown if any Mustang Bullitts will be allocated to the UK or how many of this special edition car will be produced.

■ Nearly half of British motorists admit to being middle-lane hoggers

Less than a quarter of UK drivers stick to the inside lane of a motorway, it has been revealed.

Data collected by insurance firm Direct Line, which analysed more than 70 hours of motorway footage, found that drivers ‘blatantly’ ignored the Highway Code, which states: ‘You should always drive in the left-hand lane when the road ahead is clear.’

A poll by the car insurance firm found that just 23 per cent of motorists said they followed the rule, and 43 per cent admitted to driving in the middle lane despite the inside lane being free. Meanwhile, nearly half of the 2,004 people polled (49 per cent) said they weren’t even aware that they could be prosecuted for the offence.

‘Millions of drivers risk prosecution by travelling in the middle and outside lanes when the inside lanes are entirely clear’

Careless driving is punishable by a £100 on the spot fine by the police. In the most extreme cases, drivers can also be prosecuted, which could see them hit with between three and nine points on their driving licence and fine of up to 175 per cent of their weekly income.

Direct Line director of car insurance, Rob Miles, said: ‘Our analysis of traffic flows shows that millions of drivers risk prosecution by travelling in the middle and outside lanes when the inside lanes are entirely clear.

‘It’s important that we increase awareness of the rules and penalties, primarily because they exist to keep road users safe, but also because drivers face serious fines and endorsements that will stay on their record for four years.

‘Many motorists claim they want to avoid changing lanes to overtake, but this is a crucial skill and in-car technologies such as blind spot and safe distance warnings can help drivers to travel safely.

‘Academics also believe that middle-lane hogging can increase congestion, as in moderately busy periods people can be trapped in the left-hand lane, unable to overtake slower-moving traffic.’

The news comes as it was revealed that, where data was available, just over 2,000 drivers were fined for careless driving during 2016. Research by Confused.com found motorists weren’t being stopped by police for committing the offence, which includes tailgating, middle-lane hogging, undertaking and driving too slowly.

Freedom of information request responses from 16 forces found 2,012 drivers fell foul of the offence. The other 29 forces failed or refused to reply to the information request.

Amanda Stretton, motoring editor at Confused.com, said of middle-lane hogging: ‘It’s a difficult crime to catch in the act, and so-called “smart” motorways have yet to address the issue, which contributes to congestion and accidents — not something drivers want to be faced with on their already-busy commute to work.

‘Hopefully, allowing learner drivers to practise on motorways from 2018 will be a step towards reducing the number of tailgaters and middle-lane hoggers on our roads.’

■ Original Land Rover to be restored for carmaker’s 70th birthday

Land Rover will mark its 70th anniversary by restoring the vehicle that ‘started it all’.

After going missing for two decades, the firm will restore one of the three pre-production Land Rovers it showcased at the 1948 Amsterdam Motor Show — the vehicle that gave the world its first glimpse of the legendary 4×4.

For years, the whereabouts of the vehicle was a mystery. The demonstrator was last on the road in the 1960s, after which it spent 20 years in a Welsh field before being bought as a restoration project; it then lay languishing unfinished in a garden.

Following its surprise discovery just a few miles outside of Solihull — where the car was first built — the experts at Jaguar Land Rover Classic spent months researching in company archives to unravel its ownership history and confirm its provenance.

‘This Land Rover is an irreplaceable piece of world automotive history’

The Land Rover has a lot of unique pre-production features including thicker aluminium alloy body panels, a galvanised chassis and a removable rear tub. The patina of its components will be preserved, including the original Light Green paint applied in 1948.

The team behind the Land Rover Series I Reborn programme, which allows customers to own a slice of Land Rover history with meticulously restored Series Is, will now embark on a year-long mission to preserve the prototype and enable it to be driven again.

JLR Classics director, Tim Hannig, said: ‘This Land Rover is an irreplaceable piece of world automotive history and is as historically important as “Huey”, the first pre-production Land Rover.

‘Beginning its sympathetic restoration here at Classic Works, where we can ensure it’s put back together precisely as it’s meant to be, is a fitting way to start Land Rover’s 70th anniversary year.

‘There is something charming about the fact that exactly 70 years ago this vehicle would have been undergoing its final adjustments before being prepared for the 1948 Amsterdam Motor Show launch — where the world first saw the shape that’s now immediately recognised as a Land Rover.’