DEARBORN, Mich.,– Craig Jackson, chairman and CEO of Barrett-Jackson Collector Car Auction Company, Shell and Pennzoil announced during the annual Woodward Dream Cruise in Michigan that Shelby American’s 1967 Shelby GT500 EXP prototype nicknamed "Little Red" was located and verified on March 3, 2018. The team who discovered Little Red was led by Jackson and classic car restoration specialist Jason Billups, and consisted of leading experts who located the vehicle in rural North Texas, where it has been stored by the same owner for more than two decades.The discovery of Little Red, which was largely presumed destroyed after years of searching, is considered one of the most significant finds in American car collector history.
“Finding Little Red is the discovery of a lifetime,” said Jackson. “This Shelby prototype has been one of the most sought-after and elusive vehicles in postwar history. Countless enthusiasts and experts have searched for Little Red since it went missing in the 1960s. Many believed it was destroyed when the car was no longer needed. I’m excited to announce that was not the case. We’ve found Little Red and we intend to meticulously restore this legendary car back to its original glory.”
Dubbed “Little Red,” the big-block Shelby notchback coupe was one of a pair of “experimental” cars created by Ford Motor Company and Shelby American. It was a pivotal developmental car with a variety of ideas put into play, from a restyled body to adding a Paxton supercharger to the big-block engine. Under the direction of Lee Iacocca, the car eventually became the model for Ford’s popular 1968 Mustang California Special before it was moved to storage and presumably lost.
The idea to look for Little Red began during the restoration of the other legendary Shelby prototype coupe, named the Green Hornet. Little Red and the Green Hornet were the only notchback coupes ever produced to wear the Shelby nameplate. Craig Jackson and Billups discussed what the chances might be of finding the fabled 1967 Shelby Experimental coupe. Billups felt it was a mystery worth investigating, and the team began their search.
“Locating Little Red was tantamount to finding the proverbial needle in a haystack,” said 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.”
After initial contact with the owner via social media in February, Billups and Little Red’s owner agreed to meet in Dallas, Texas. On March 3, 2018, Billups, along with automotive journalist (and OCW contributor) Al Rogers and Ford Mustang and Shelby specialist Todd Hollar, were given access to the Texas property where Little Red spent the last 20 years.
When the team discovered the vehicle in March, it was identified as the original missing experimental car with the assistance of renowned Ford Mustang expert Kevin Marti. The team also verified its authenticity using cross references, serial numbers, date codes and other confidential documents proving the vehicle was, in fact, the missing Shelby prototype, Little Red.
“March 3rd will be forever etched in the history books,” said Rogers. “Walking up to Little Red was like being on hallowed ground. This car was long thought by the experts to be forever lost to history. Even the owner was not aware that his vehicle was Shelby American’s iconic 1967 Shelby Experimental coupe. We can’t be more excited to have been a part of Craig Jackson’s team and have the chance to bring this important car back to its original glory. We’re especially honored to be a part of Little Red’s restoration over the next several months, which will be carefully documented and shared with Shelby, Mustang and Ford enthusiasts around the world.”
Little Red was stored in outdoor conditions for nearly two decades. As a result, the restoration of Little Red will be one of the most meticulous projects in American car collector history. The restoration will be fully documented on www.ShelbyPrototypeCoupes.com and include photos, videos and a robust content storyboard that will detail each step of the rebuild.
Shell and Pennzoil are helping support, in part, the documentation of Little Red’s restoration journey. “As brands that have been part of American and worldwide automotive history for more than 100 years, we understand the importance of heritage. So, with that in mind, we’re thrilled to join Craig Jackson and his team on this historic journey to return Little Red to its original glory,” said Mark Henry, brand and communications manager, Shell Lubricants. “This will be one of the greatest stories of automotive history ever told, and we look forward to having a role in making it come alive for generations to come.”
To further document Little Red’s history, the public can submit personal accounts, stories and photos that feature Little Red. This will be the first time that a collector car vehicle will be substantiated in part, using a crowdsourcing initiative on www.ShelbyPrototypeCoupes.com.
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