• Ford Shelby GT500

First Shelby GT500 Prototype Found, and the Restorer Wants Your Help 

This could be the most significant Shelby car ever, and it was thought to have been lost decades ago.

Evan Williams By: Evan Williams August 22, 2018
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Image © Barrett-Jackson

It sat in a North Texas field for more than 20 years. That’s better than the crushing it was feared to have endured decades before that. It’s the very first ever Shelby GT500 Mustang. The prototype and Caroll Shelby’s own car. And now the current owner wants your help in filling in the blanks in what happened to Little Red over all these years.

Little Red is a 1967 Ford Mustang with a big past. This could be the most significant Shelby car ever, and it was thought to have been lost decades ago.

For starters, it’s the only GT500 coupe that Shelby American built. This was the hardtop body style and the rest were fastbacks. It’s also the only GT Coupe ordered and factory-equipped with dual quad carburettors. The car was a development mule for Shelby which means that a whole host of engines and other modifications went through this car. The GT500 EXP (for EXPerimental) was one of just two cars that Ford and Shelby used for those tasks.

There are the obvious things like the restyled nose that boasted the wider grille and twin driving lights that would become the Shelby Mustang signature. The car had an interior fitted with Connolly leather, one of just two GTs that year known to be trimmed that way.

The car also boasted a massive 428 cubic inch (7.0L) V8. That engine was fitted with various different higher performance options for testing, including a Paxton supercharger and allegedly twin-turbos.

Little Red was driven by Shelby and when Ford exec Lee Iacocca saw it the car became the model for the 1968 California Special. A trim that lives on to today’s Mustangs.

Craig Jackson, of the Barrett-Jackson collector car auctions, first started looking for this car after he purchased another at auction. The Green Hornet was a 1968, the only other Shelby notchback GT, though it was built as the GT-CS, then later turned into an EXP 500. That car never really went missing, but is currently undergoing restoration to take it as close to as-built as possible.

Little Red disappeared because people were looking for the wrong car. It had a Shelby serial number, but it wasn’t registered under that number. It was when they found the Ford VIN that they started to get leads on the car.

“Locating Little Red was tantamount to finding the proverbial needle in a haystack,” said restoration specialist Jason Billups. “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.”

They found that it had gone to a Ford dealer in Colorado before ending up in Texas. With the original engine missing.

This is going to be a very thorough restoration, and Craig Jackson is looking for the public’s help. He wants to fill in the story of the car. So he wants anyone who has personal accounts, stories or photos of the car to submit them to his site. The restoration will be documented and filled in with each step of the rebuild and the crowdsourced stories that tell the tale of this long-lost Mustang.

First Drive: 2019 Ford Mustang Bullitt

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