KISSIMMEE, Fla. – Have you ever dreamed of taking a road trip across the United States in a Mustang? It might seem like an impossible dream even for the most ardent of enthusiasts. But imagine how daunting it might seem if you hail from a country that is about the size of Maryland. For one Danish couple, they made that dream come true in the name of higher learning.
For Mads Nielsen and Mette Christensen of Aarhus, Denmark, it was the realization of both a love for the original pony car and the natural evolution of Mads’ studies. As a Danish scholar of American society and culture, spending an extended time in the United States served as the ultimate research project.
“I have from a very early age admired the Mustang brand although in the beginning mainly due to my misconception of its relation to the P-51 Mustang as a small child,” Mads said. “As I grew and gained more knowledge on the matter, I began to admire American culture and to link U.S. culture to the Mustang brand. As my knowledge of the U.S. grew, so did the dream of a road trip through the nation. So, when my far-better half asked me what I wanted to do most in the world, I idly answered, ‘Take a drive across the USA.” She answered: ‘Sounds like fun; pack your bags’.”
Those bags must have been full, as they set out for five months of study abroad in the United States. It wasn’t their first trip to the States, however. The duo took several multi-week road trips on which they only abided by three rules: follow no set schedule; follow no set route; and most importantly, drive American muscle. The last rule put them in a Mustang, and they were hooked.
For this five-month adventure, a mere rental just wouldn’t do. The couple opted to purchase a Mustang (which would be cost-prohibitive in their home country) for this journey. After scouring dealerships all over Southern California, they found a match made in horsepower heaven.
“We had no knowledge of the existence of the Bullitt, neither the car nor the movie, prior to coming to America in 2019,” Mads said. “Originally, we were looking for a used Mustang GT to use to and from the university campus and for us to take some short road trips in. We started touring the dealerships of Southern California, looking for used 5.0’s. One day, Mette saw a Mustang Bullitt standing outside a dealership in LA. This was the pivotal moment for both of us: That Dark Highland Green, glittering in the sun; The face of an Aston Martin and the body of Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson; The green changing hues with the curves and crevasses of the body; the chrome lining along the windows; and those red brake calipers.”
“It is by far the sexiest car either of us had ever seen, and the dreams started flooding over us,” he added. “Since we started talking about our stay in America, we’ve been talking about ‘living the dream.’ The Bullitt embodied that notion now. It is the epitome of living to the fullest in this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. We left that Bullitt in LA, but the Bullitt never left us; 10 days later, we bought one in Irvine.”
Dubbed the ‘Green Meanie,’ this distinctly American machine would serve as both their daily driver for general use like trips to the California State University campus and the grocery store. For four months of the stay these duties were in California along with the occasional in-state road trip. The stay wrapped up with a 16-day, coast-to-coast road trip that ended in the City of Brotherly Love.
Along the way, the couple owned their trusty Bullitt for 121 days and racked up 10,002 miles. They used 461 gallons of gas and averaged 21.7 mpg. More important than that basic data, the couple learned a lot about the United States and how it compares with their homeland.
“What both the rented Mustangs of previous trips and the especially the Bullitt on this trip brought me was that through our road trips covering the continent, I’ve experienced a very different country than the one depicted in the media of Europe,” Mads said. “Opposing to the view presented by European media, the USA isn’t so much one country as it is many small countries (far more than just 50 states), which have agreed to work together in some form of unity for the betterment of all the ‘small countries.’ This is a far cry from the notion that USA moves with one mind and one purpose. As it is an immensely culturally diverse society, this notion of absolute unity is simply not feasible, and thus the single-mindedness of USA is but a myth.”
Beyond the diversity hidden within the United States, the couple also learned just how welcoming automotive enthusiasts are, particularly those fellow Mustang Bullitt owners.
“There were dreams that were ignited in the people we met and talked about it with,” Mads noted. “Shock set in when we told them the miles that we’d driven despite the short time we had owned it. Just as owning a Bullitt was an exceptional experience for us, it was important for us to share it with as many people as possible. This meant that every time someone showed interest in the car, they were invited to take the time to talk to us about it, sit in it and turn it on, flip the revs, and see and feel all that makes the Bullitt a Bullitt. This was important to us because it is an American icon, and as such should be shared with the American people.”
The car also helped the couple share the wonders of the United States. From a sunset over the White Sands National Monument in New Mexico to attending to a Danish/American heritage festival in Elk Horn, Iowa, and so many other stops along the way, Mads gained an appreciation for both the country he studies, and the gifts of the car chosen for the journey.
“It is an immensely impressive machine,” Mads said of the Bullitt. “Steering response time is amazing and with pinpoint accuracy; acceleration and the control of this car is phenomenal. The car feels like a very comfortable race car. The smoothness of the gearshifts (unless you don’t want them to be that way) and the computer calculating proper rev-speed for gear reentry, gives a feeling of road-happiness we haven’t experienced before. It delivers a smile at every turn.”
As their trip cross country drew to a close, the Mads and Mette attended the Carlisle Ford Nationals in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, where they had a chance meeting with the Bullittheads from the HoonDog Performance Group, who embraced both them and their car. The group invited the couple to attend a special Bullitt dinner, and they were able to experience the true passion that enthusiasts have for these special machines.
“All of them wanted to know our story, to tell their own stories, and show off their cars,” Mads said. “But most of all, they just wanted to include us in their little community. They wanted to acknowledge our story and existence and they wanted us to experience and partake in the love we all share for the Bullitt. Few times in our lives have we felt so welcome and so wanted as we did during that Saturday night dinner. Several times during the night the word ‘providence’ was used when talking about the unlikely series of events which brought us to that gathering. That word encompasses the feeling we left with after that night.”
Of course, all good things must come to and end. It was the plan all along to sell the Bullitt at the end of the journey. A plan is one thing, but it didn’t prepare the couple for the separation anxiety that would come on that fateful day in Philadelphia.
“Despite having prepared for this moment for the past four months it was, bar none, the toughest moment of the trip,” Mads said. “Sitting at the dealer, looking at Green Meanie through the window while Mette signed it over almost made me vomit. It wasn’t a car we were selling; it was a dream – a dream we had made come true. It was a dream we had lived and a dream that was now a memory. There literally were tears. It was so bad that when we reached the car rental area at the Philadelphia airport, we had to indulge ourselves with the biggest, baddest not-a-Mustang car we could get our hands on just to compensate.”
Though this couple’s dream trip is now just a memory, there is no doubt that Mads and Mette achieved something few people do. They lived their dream -- if only for a few months -- and they might just have inspired more than a few people along the way.
“Amongst those here in Denmark who only heard the story, the most common reaction has been awe, respect, and envy,” Mads said. “Awe, as to the fact that we just went and did it and that we did it to the extent which we did. Respect, in that we had a dream, which we saw fulfilled. And a slight envy that they themselves don’t have the courage and vision to do the same.”
But, if you do work up the courage to follow a similar path to this Danish duo, we can’t think of a more appropriate vehicle to give it a shot in than a 2019 Ford Mustang Bullitt. Steve McQueen would definitely approve.
PHOTOS COURTESY TONY ALONSO, MADS NIELSEN AND METTE CHRISTENSEN