There’s a lot of crazy history behind the Ford Mustang. Apparently the stories never end. However, these stories start to get crazier when you add racing legend Carroll Shelby into the mix. Shelby was responsible for the most powerful and fastest Mustangs of the 1960s. He was also instrumental in Ford’s dominance over Ferrari with the GT40 program. However, one of the most iconic vehicles linked to the Carroll Shelby name is undoubtedly the Ford GT500. While a regular GT500 is rare on its own, few are rarer than “Little Red”, the GT500 prototype that disappeared for 50 years.
Little Red was left to rot in a field in Texas
According to Ford, Little Red is one of only two Mustang hatchbacks to ever bear the Shelby name. The other is known as “The Green Hornet”. Both cars belong to Craig Jackson, president and CEO of Barrett-Jackson Auctions.
Little Red and The Green Hornet served as prototypes for the production GT500. These vehicles have been put through their paces and put through all kinds of tests. According to the Shelby Prototype Coupes website, these experimental test rigs had independent rear suspension, four-wheel disc brakes, superchargers, and even early electronic fuel injection systems.
However, like many prototypes and pre-production cars, they were forgotten after serving their purpose. Although The Green Hornet stuck around, Little Red managed to force its way into a North Texas field. Luckily, even though it took about 50 years, that wasn’t the end of old Little Red.
Craig Jackson took possession of The Green Hornet and enlisted the help of Jason Billups of Billups Classic Cars in Colcord, Oklahoma for a full restoration. During the process, Jackson and Billups began discussing the possibility of finding Little Red. After all, only one thing could be better than owning an extremely rare GT500 prototype; have two!
In a documentary about Little Red found on Barrett-Jackson’s Youtube channel, the Barrett-Jackson team explains how they found him. They hired a private investigator and gave him all the information they had on the car. They had no idea if the car still existed at the time. Fortunately, they found Terry Seal, who had owned the legendary prototype since 1994 and still had it as of 2018.
Jackson quickly purchased the car and Billups began restoring it.
What makes Little Red so special?
Aside from the obvious answer that it’s a GT500 prototype, Little Red has a few additional special attributes.
Little Red is the only GT500 (not Fastback) hardtop coupe ever built by Shelby American. All other coupes had small blocks for SCCA racing. Instead of a small block, however, Little Red has a 428 cubic inch V8. It is also the only Mustang coupe to have a 428.
Additionally, it was the second Mustang ever built with a 428 cubic inch V8 (in any body style) and the third 428 Mustang to be serialized by Ford.
Most notably, however, Little Red was factory-fitted with “twin-quad carburetors”, making it the only Mustang to ever leave the factory with more than one carburetor.
Of course, some of these details seem to get a bit lost in nit-picking and semantics. But hey, it’s a GT500 prototype. Every little detail is a nice little detail.
This story is pretty crazy from start to finish. On the one hand, hiring a private investigator with only a VIN in the hope that the car still exists is bordering on madness. For it to pay off, however, and for this unique piece of Ford and Shelby history to be brought back to life is, without a doubt, madness. Mixing staff, financial backing and lots of luck made for a wild ride of a story.
Now Little Red sits next to his 1967 accomplice, The Green Hornet, in Jackson’s personal collection. Additionally, it’s joined by the 2020 edition of the Green Hornet GT500 that Jackson paid $1.1 million for at his own auction for charity benefit. Frankly, it’s hard to imagine a better-suited home for this iconic Mustang.
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