First Shelby GT500 found, a 1967 prototype dubbed ’Little Red’

You can help crowdsource the history of the father of all Shelby GT500s

  • Image Credit: Barrett-Jackson
It sat rusting for more than 20 years on a farm in north Texas and was presumed destroyed, but now it's been found and reportedly verified: Ford and Shelby American's 1967 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 EXP prototype, the first of its kind and significant for many other reasons. Barrett-Jackson writes that the car, nicknamed "Little Red," is "considered one of the most significant finds in American car collector history."

Barrett-Jackson Chairman and CEO Craig Jackson found the car in March and unveiled it at The Henry Ford museum near Detroit on Friday and displayed it at Mustang Alley as part of the Woodward Dream Cruise on Saturday. Now, they're trying to piece together what happened to the legendary big-block after it disappeared in the late '60s via a crowdsourcing website and Facebook page.

"Little Red" was one of two experimental cars — the other is nicknamed the "Green Hornet" — built by Ford and Shelby American. It featured new ideas, including a restyled body and a Paxton supercharger added to the 428 cubic-inch V8, and it served as the model for Ford's 1968 Mustang California Special.

It was the only GT500 coupe hardtop built by Shelby American, and the only GT coupe ordered with factory-equipped dual-quad carburetors. It's also one of two known '67 GT cars outfitted with a black Connolly leather interior. It was valued in 1967 at $3,318.84, which would be the equivalent of $25,420 today. Needless to say, it would be worth exponentially more if put up for sale now, but Jackson told the Detroit Free Press he has no intentions of selling it and will instead restore it "back to its original glory."

It was built at Ford's San Jose, Calif., assembly plant and spent years with performance car maker Carroll Shelby, also regularly driven by Shelby American's chief engineer, Fred Goodell, before disappearing. Experts reportedly believed the coupe was crushed in the early '70s, but it somehow made it from Detroit to a Ford dealership in Littleton, Colo.

"Locating Little Red was tantamount to finding the proverbial needle in a haystack," said Jason Billups, a classic-car restorer who worked with Jackson. "After our initial research we realized that, like others before us, we were using the wrong search criteria. Everyone looked for Little Red using the Shelby serial number, which would eventually lead to a dead end. We took a different approach and located the car's original Ford VIN number, which wasn't easily discoverable. That VIN led us to its original registration and eventually to its last owner."

It will be fascinating to see the car's history pieced back together — and also what the restoration will look like. Shelby's engineers reportedly constantly updated Little Red with new parts from at least two different model years and many experiments, including an experimental automatic transmission. After it was sold in the early '70s, it spent years in storage and had its engine stolen after a radiator meltdown.

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