There’s a lot of crazy history behind the Ford Mustang. Seemingly, the stories never end. However, those stories start getting crazier when you throw racing legend Carroll Shelby into the mix. Shelby was responsible for the most powerful and fastest Mustangs to come out of the 1960s. He was also a significant player in Ford’s domination of Ferrari with the GT40 program. However, one of the most iconic vehicles tied to Carroll Shelby’s name is undoubtedly the Ford GT500. Though a regular GT500 is rare in its own right, few are rarer than “Little Red,” the GT500 prototype that went missing for 50 years.
Little Red was left to rot in a Texas field
According to Ford, Little Red is one of only two notchback Mustang models that ever wore the Shelby name. The other one is known as “The Green Hornet.” Both of these cars belong to Craig Jackson, the chairman and CEO of Barrett-Jackson Auctions.
Little Red and The Green Hornet served as prototypes for the production GT500. These vehicles were put through the wringer and had all kinds of testing done with them. According to the Shelby Prototype Coupes website, these experimental testbeds had independent rear suspension, four-wheel disk brakes, superchargers, and even early electronic fuel injection systems.
However, like many prototype and pre-production cars, they got forgotten after serving their purpose. Though The Green Hornet stuck around, Little Red somehow managed to make its way into a field in North Texas. Fortunately, even though it took about 50 years, that wasn’t the end of old Little Red.
Craig Jackson took ownership of The Green Hornet and enlisted the help of Jason Billups of Billups Classic Cars in Colcord, Oklahoma, for a complete 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; having two of them!
In a documentary about Little Red found on Barrett-Jackson’s Youtube channel, the Barrett-Jackson team outlines how they found it. They hired a private investigator and gave him all the information they had on the car. They had no idea if the car even still existed at the time. Fortunately, they found Terry Seal, who’d had the legendary prototype since 1994 and still had it in 2018.
Jackson promptly purchased the car, and Billups began restoring it.
What makes Little Red so special?
Aside from the obvious answer of it being a GT500 prototype, Little Red has a few more special attributes going for it.
Little Red is the only GT500 hardtop coupe (not Fastback) ever built by Shelby American. All other coupes had small blocks for SCCA racing. Instead of a small block, though, Little Red has a 428 cubic-inch V8. It’s also the only Mustang coupe ever to get a 428, too.
Additionally, it was the second Mustang ever built with a 428 cubic-inch V8 (across all body styles) and the third 428 Mustang to be serialized by Ford.
Most notably, though, Little Red was fitted from the factory with “dual-quad carburetors,” making it the only Mustang ever to leave the factory with more than one carburetor on it.
Sure, some of these details seem to get a little lost in nitpicking and semantics. But, come on, it’s a prototype GT500. Every little detail is a cool little detail.
This story is pretty bonkers from end to end. For one, hiring a private investigator with only a VIN in hopes that the car still exists is borderline insane. For that to pay off, though, and this one-of-one piece of Ford and Shelby history to get brought back to life is, without doubt, insanity. Blending the staffing, financial backing, and a whole lot of luck made for one wild ride of a story.
Now, Little Red sits beside its 1967 partner in crime, The Green Hornet, in Jackson’s personal collection. Additionally, it’s joined by The Green Hornet edition 2020 GT500 that Jackson paid $1.1 million for at his own auction for a charity benefit. Frankly, it’s hard to imagine a better-suited home for this iconic Mustang.