Here's what makes it hard to piece together Shelby history: Back in the 1960s, during the heyday of Carroll's ragtag group of Mustang hot-rodders, they weren't running the shop as a memento factory. They were cranking through prototypes, throwing away failed experiments and charging forward, trying to build the fastest, most advanced street and race cars they could muster out of factory Ford coupes and applied racing and engineering knowledge.
In the process, a lot of meaningful items were scattered, thrown away, scrapped or sold. And that means today, tracking down a particularly important piece of Shelby history can be a decades-long search. That was the case for this car: .
Officially known as a 1967 Shelby GT500 EXP Prototype, Little Red is the only GT500 notchback coupe ever built by Shelby American. Production GT500s were available only in fastback or convertible form; the rest of Shelby's notchback coupes were built with small-block engines for SCCA racing.
This red notchback was shipped directly from Ford's factory to Shelby American as a test vehicle. The Shelby team tried a number of different drivetrains in the car, primarily a supercharged 428ci V8 and a three-speed automatic transmission. A second notchback test vehicle, a 1968 that came to be known as "Green Hornet," received the GT500 drivetrain and an experimental independent rear suspension that never made it to production.
From there, Shelby was supposed to send Little Red and Green Hornet back to Ford to be destroyed. This was standard practice for pre-production prototypes.
But , somewhere along the way, both cars were diverted from their date with disassembling destiny. Green Hornet was sold at a Ford employee auction in 1971 and changed hands numerous times. Little Red disappeared.
Craig Jackson, CEO of Barrett-Jackson auctions, has been searching out Little Red for years. , which was restored in 1993, offered up for auction in 2013 (though it remained unsold with a max bid of $1.9 million that did not meet reserve), and is currently undergoing another restoration to return it to precise Shelby Automotive EXP-500 condition.
During research on Green Hornet, Jackson and car historian Jason Billups discovered a Ford factory inventory sheet listing the VIN number of Little Red. Previous searchers had been using the Shelby-issued serial number to try to track down the car, unsuccessfully. Jackson and Billings realized the Ford VIN was the ticket to find the car.
And so they discovered it, languishing in a field in Texas, just waiting to be restored.
Little is known about what happened to Little Red since the late 60s. On his website, , Jackson asks "if you or someone you know has information that could help piece together the entire story of Little Red, we would love for you to be part of our first-of-its-kind crowdsourcing project." To submit photos or information, .