Barrett-Jackson’s Craig Jackson and Team Find ‘Little Red’ Shelby 500
Craig Jackson took his car magnifying glass out and found a big prize in north Texas.
The Holy Grail car is “Little Red,” the 1967 Ford Shelby GT500 EXP Prototype: the only GT500 coupe (hardtop) built by Shelby American, the company founded by legendary racer and entrepreneur, the late Carroll Shelby; the only GT coupe factory equipped with dual-quads; and just the second GT500 coupe to be serialized and completed.
Jackson, chairman and CEO of Scottsdale-based Barrett-Jackson Collector Car Auction Company, classic car restoration specialist Jason Billups and a team of automotive experts located and verified the car in March.
Jackson collaborated with Shell and Pennzoil to announce the find on August 17 at the annual Woodward Dream Cruise in Michigan. The same owner had stored it outside for more than two decades, so the car will undergo a frame-off restoration.
“Finding Little Red is the discovery of a lifetime,” Jackson says. “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.”
The big-block Shelby notchback coupe was one of a pair of “experimental” cars created by Ford Motor Company and Shelby American. Guided by Lee Iacocca, the car eventually became the model for Ford’s popular 1968 Mustang California Special before it was presumed lost.
“After our initial research, we realized that, like others before us, we were using the wrong search criteria,” Billups explained. “Everyone looked for Little Red using the Shelby serial number, which would eventually lead to a dead end. Instead, we located the car’s original Ford VIN number, and that led us to its original registration and eventually to its last owner.”
Jackson, Billups, automotive journalist Al Rogers and Ford Mustang and Shelby specialist Todd Hollar were assisted in authentication by Mustang expert Kevin Marti. “Walking up to Little Red was like being on hallowed ground,” Rogers said.
Enthusiasts can find the restoration at ShelbyPrototypeCoupes.com. To further document “Little Red,” they can submit personal accounts, stories and photos at that site.
“This will be one of the greatest stories of automotive history ever told,” says Mark Henry, brand and communications manager, Shell Lubricants, “and we look forward to having a role in making it come alive for generations to come.”