Restored ‘Little Red’ Prototype Shelby Mustang GT500 Debuts At Auction
For the first time in more than half a century, the silks were recently pulled from a prototype Shelby Mustang GT500 EXP after an exhaustive restoration process.
The 1967 model, dubbed Little Red, was one of the more sought-after lots at the recent Annual Barrett-Jackson Collector Car Auction in Scottsdale, having been long-since thought destroyed before its eventual discovery in rural North Texas in 2018. The prototype hit the stage at Scottsdale alongside Green Hornet, another long-lost prototype Shelby Mustang, which made its global re-debut at SEMA last year.
The Scottsdale auction marked the first time that only 1967 Shelby hardtops in existence have appeared together, despite their collective 105-year lifespan.
The gruelling restoration was overseen by another restoration project by classic car restoration specialist, Jason Billups, and Barrett-Jackson CEO, Craig Jackson, the latter of which refers to Little Red as “one of the most sought-after and elusive vehicles in postwar history.”
Not a hard claim to make. Produced in 1967 and sent to Shelby for performance parts testing, the GT500 EXP was eventually sent back to Ford to be crushed, though somehow escaped its fate before falling off the map altogether during the 1970s. After an exhaustive search – Billups admits time was lost searching for Little Red’s Shelby serial number rather the original Ford VIN – the ’67 Mustang was eventually tracked down to a farm in Texas, where it had been left to rot for the better part of 20 years after spending time in a Colorado dealership, in the garage of a Vietnam veteran, and in Wyoming. Its fenders, hood, engine and transmission had long-since disappeared.
Green Hornet meanwhile, after receiving a unique front grille, marchal fog lights, and a louvered bonnet from Ford, also spent time with Shelby in 1967. But while Little Red became the first Mustang to receive a Paxton-supercharged 428-cubic-inch V8, its green notchback contemporary – re-labeled EXP500 – received a 390-cubic-inch V8 with Conelec fuel injection, an in-house designed ‘C6’ six-speed automatic gearbox, independent rear suspension, and four-wheel disc brakes. At the behest of Shelby, the Mustang even received a one-of-a-kind gold-luster-green-lacquer paint finish before being returned to Ford and later sent to auction in 1971. Despite being professionally restored in 1993, a full overhaul was begun in 2018 by new owner Jackson ahead of Green Hornet’s SEMA debut.
Fittingly, both prototypes were joined on-stage by two 2020 Shelby GT500, one Rapid Red, the other a bespoke Candy Apple Green. Both are descendants of their ’67 forebears, given the independent rear suspension, four-wheel disc brakes and electronic fuel injection each boasts. Admittedly, the 2020 model’s 760hp 5.2-litre supercharged V8 would give the originals a run for their money.
Which, by the way, will be herculean, with figures upwards of $1.9 million for each being reported.
*Images courtesy of Ford Motor Company, Barrett-Jackson, and Craig Jackson