Two "Lost" Pre-Production Ford Mustangs Reappear

Mark C. Bach
When Detroit opts to build a new car they generally first show off a concept car to gauge the public's interest. Then they produce a few pre-production cars that they can check out and make sure that they are going to get the result they are looking for. These pre-production or "pilot" cars have an interesting life. They may get several looks and styles as different grills, mirrors and even body panels are tested. Generally the company mantra is to destroy these pre-production cars when they no longer serve a purpose. Typically the company and the suits are afraid of the liability of these one-off products with little documentation of the tweaks and changes made during their life cycle.
But occasionally the buzzards hanging out in the wrecking yards don't get to extract their savagery and the cars get hustled off to other parts of the automotive trove and remain a mystery and urban myth.
That's what happened to these two Mustangs. The Green Hornet is a 1968 Mustang notchback coupe designed as the prototype for the launch of the California Special. It and another Mustang "Little Red", a 1967 Mustang, are the only notchback coupes produced jointly by Ford Motor Company and Shelby Automotive.
From 1967 through 1970, the 1968 Mustang served as a prototype for Ford Motor Company and then Shelby Automotive. Initially it was the prototype for the GT/Super Coupe program and, then became the prototype for the California Special.
Then in 1968, the Mustang prototype was handed off to Shelby Automotive. Shelby added some features designed to enhance performance naturally. The Shelby enhancement package included a fuel injected 428 CI V8 engine, along with a custom C6 automatic transmission plus independent rear suspension and 4-wheel disc brakes.
After getting a fresh coat of bright green paint, it earned the nickname "Green Hornet". It bounced around collectors' hands for a while before Craig Jackson from Barrett-Jackson Auctions got it and had it restored. While doing so he decided to see if he could determine what happened to the similar 1967 Mustang prototype "Little Red"
The 67 Mustang prototype was the only GT500 coupe (hardtop) built by Shelby American. To beef up its performance it had two quad carburetors on its 428 CI engine. Shelby used this Mustang to test various configurations and options. It bounced within the shop for a few years and then at some point disappeared. It would appear that some bean counter was profit focused and sold the car as a used Mustang rather than send it to a crusher.
It moved around as an old used Mustang and ended up in a Texas field, without its engine/transmission and some body panels. By checking the Ford VIN number the Mustang was located and later authenticated by Kevin Marti - the guru of all things Ford. Jackson bought it in 2018 and had it restored to its glory.
At the January 2020 Barrett-Jackson Auction in Scottsdale, AZ Craig Jackson unveiled both cars, the first time they had been seen together in public. Jackson seemed sentimental about both of these Mustangs and mused that a museum somewhere would be the best site for these Mustang relics. But for now you can enjoy these photos.
(C) 2020 Mark C. Bach
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