The Shelby Coupes
Designation: "EXP 500"


By Craig Jackson, Jason Billups, Paul Newitt and Peter Disher
Assistance provided by the Shelby American Automobile Club

I would like to start by thanking both Craig Jackson and Jason Billups for letting me be a small part of the most significant discovery in the Shelby hobby. Through the hard work of the SAAC Registrars, Dave Mathews and Vincent Liska, a rare, super car has been rediscovered. The discovery of this car has led to a most unique project. This project will be unprecedented. The project allows anyone with information, recollections or observations to guide the restoration process.

"Little Red"
The original EXP 500

In the late 1960s, Shelby Automobiles built two cars designated "EXP 500". Both of these cars started off as Mustang coupes. Both cars were assigned to Shelby's engineering department.

Period photograph by Peter Birro. The first Shelby coupe built was Ford serial number 7R01S133947. The car was designated as 1967 Shelby number 67411FH900131. Even though the engine code is "S", the car was originally built with a 428 Police Interceptor. Shelby codes can be different from Ford codes. It is believed, Shelby originally intended to add a coupe to the 1967 lineup.

Shelby Engineers converted the San Jose built Mustang into a car that became the first Shelby coupe. Like all engineering cars, this car went through a series of configurations. Each part was evaluated for feasibility on future Shelby products. It is known that the car went through a number of engines and transmissions before it ever left the engineering department. One of the more unique things tested was a Paxton supercharger. The car quickly became a favorite of Carroll Shelby and garnered the nickname "Little Red".

As the 1967 model year came to a close, Little Red became tired. The new 1968s would soon be showing up and Shelbys operations were moving to Michigan. The decision was taken to update Little Red to 1968 specifications, detune the engine and later sell it as a used car.

These handwritten notes are from Shelbys Engineering department. It has been determined the conversion to 1968 specifications most likely happened during the winter of 1967. The fiberglass found on the car was all 1968 "production" style fiberglass. That fiberglass was not available until December of 1967. The car received new rear, quarter panel reflectors and also received special "EXP 500" rocker panel striping. The interior was also updated to 1968 specifications by adding simulated woodgrain to the dash panels and a 1968 steering wheel. A 1968 Shelby console completed the interior. The car likely stayed in Shelbys possesion during the 1968 calendar year.

The vehicle eventually found its way to Courtesy Ford in Littleton, Colorado. Courtesy was known to have taken several of the engineering cars for resale. It is important to remember that Shelbys in general were not big sellers. While the cars were popular at the time, they were also expensive. Many dealers had unsold inventory and a variety of models flooded the market. A buyer could have chosen a California Special, a High Country Special or a number of other cars. Used Shelbys and demonstrators probably were not very attractive to most potential buyers.

The first owner supplied several photographs. In this picture, the 1968 emblems and EXP 500 side stripes are visible. It is believe this picture is from the early 1970s. The owner's son is in the foreground.

The second owner, had long suspected the car was unique in some way. In the early days, the car was basic transportation. Later the car sat in disrepair. The car spent time in Colorado and Wyoming. At some point, the owner pulled the engine and front fenders off the car. These parts were placed into storage. After the owner moved the car to Texas, he returned to find the loose parts missing. The car would begin its long internment sitting outside, in a field for several decades.

Jason Billups, of Billup's Restoration after he discovered the coupe sitting in a Texas field. Kevin Marti was able to verify the Ford Vehicle Identification Number and was also present when the car was found.

One of the more remarkable parts of this story is that Jason and Craig Jackson, CEO of Barrett-Jackson auctions were completely honest with the owner. They shared all the research and fully disclosed the details of the car. To say the owner was surprised would be an understatement. Details of the financial arrangement were not made public, but both the buyer and seller were satisified. Craig Jackson, who also owns the 1968 Shelby coupe, now has a matched pair of the rarest Shelbys ever built.

The decision was taken to show the car as it was found. There would be no questions later that the rediscovered car is authentic. Another interesting decision was to "crowd source" the restoration. Anyone that has information on this historic automobile is being asked to join the team. Jackson has set up a special website asking everyone for details on the car.

These special cards were handed out at the public unveiling of the car. Each card is numbered and only 200 cards were handed out.

The card provides an address for contacting the restoration team:

Craig Jackson unvieled "Little Red" at a private dinner. The dinner was held at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn. Executives from Ford, Shelby American and invited guests were on hand. Here Craig shows a photograph of the original Identification Numbers and compares them to the engineering inventory sheet.

Everyone had a chance to see the car up close. A few new observations were made. The car was displayed the following day at the Woodward Dream Cruise, where people were allowed to closely examine the car.

Inside the original trunk, a power antenna. The antenna appears to be from a Lincoln. The car also has an AM-FM radio.

There were several loose items inside the trunk. The large holes created for 1967 Shelby tailights were closed by plastic filler boards. The engineers then added the 1968 style tail light cups, similar to a 1968. The original engineering paperwork noted "1969 style sequential lights". This is probably an error, because original "dynamite" sticks are still present on the wiring.

The black simulated vinyl roof was actually sprayed on the car. 1968/9 style emblems replaced the early 1967 versions.

Two thin strips were glued to the roof, before the vinyl spray was applied to create the illusion of a seam.

The inside of the car was also updated to 1968 Specifications. The original console was not in the car, but the console lid was present. The dash was updated by applying woodgrain over the 1967 brushed panels. A 1968 steering wheel and pad were also added. The car still has 1967 style door panels.

This picture shows the deluxe, door wiring appears to have been added. Interestingly, the dash emblem appears to be unique and unlike a production piece.

The engine bay has a lot of interesting parts. The original red hoses are seen in a vintage picture of Little Red's engine bay. The air conditioning looks to have been removed. It would not have been compatible with the Paxton supercharger.

The handwritten production note asks for another coupe to be built. That car would become the second EXP 500.

The Green Hornet
Designation: "EXP 500"

I will be the first to admit, I have had questions about the second Shelby coupe. After becoming involved with the second restoration of the car, those questions were answered. Paul Newitt is the person most responsible for recognizing the historical significance of the car and his work should be recognized. This car would also be used as a model for the California Special.

Unlike Little Red, the Green Hornet would not receive a Shelby serial number. There is no doubt that the car was a Shelby. Serial number 8F01S104288 would be one of the first cars to recieve a 428 Cobra Jet engine. The car was also equipped with Conelec fuel injection system.

The original build sheet for the car that would become the Green Hornet. Like Little Red, before the Green Hornet was also updated during its time in the Engineering department.

This photo first appeared in the Shelby American magazine. The car appears with a light paint job and the "EXP 500" stripes.

Martin Euler restored the Green Hornet more than 30 years ago. He did an excellent job based on the information available at the time. The independent rear suspension was recreated. The original Conelec fuel injection systems were obsolete and would not be found until many years after his restoration.

This paper shows Fred Goodell, Shelby's Chief Engineer was still using the car in 1970. This was after the Shelby program shut down.

Here is one of the more interesting discoveries made during the second restoration of the Green Hornet. The original light green color. The color included several coats of candy.

The Green Hornet and Little Red are both ready to represent the most unique time in muscle car history. Please feel free to contact me if you have any information on these cars!