It’s not uncommon for prototype Shelby Mustangs to pop up at Barrett-Jackson auctions, but this example is a little more unique. It’s the 1968 EXP-500 – or Shelby himself called it, the “Green Hornet.”
Shelby’s other notchback prototype – a twin-supercharged ’67 nicknamed “Little Red” – served as an inspiration for Ford’s limited edition California Special model. Ironically, the Green Hornet was originally built to serve as a prototype for the GT/CS. VIN 8F01S104288 originally rolled off the line boasting a 390 cubic-inch V-8, a three-speed automatic transmission, and Ivy Gold paint, and was later treated to the same fiberglass, Shelby-style rear clip regular production California (and High County) Special models would receive.
After Ford no longer had a use for the car, it was then turned over to Shelby’s Michigan engineering offices in Ionia, located near the firm – A.O. Smith – that was now in charge of producing GT350 and GT500 models. Along with a Shelby-spec front clip, the car was given a number of experimental mechanical modifications, including a 428-cubic-inch V-8 equipped with a Conolec fuel injection system, a heavier-duty transmission pilfered from an F350 truck, rear disc brakes, and – of all things – independent rear suspension. The IRS, which was inspired by those used in Cobra Daytona Coupes, boasted coilover dampers and was designed to utilize the mounting points leftover from the stock leaf springs.
The Green Hornet wasn’t as ludicrous as Little Red, but it was still quick. In The Complete Book of Shelby Automobiles, author Colin Comer estimates the fuel-injected 428 cranked out a whopping 475 horsepower. A Shelby American World Registry article on EXP-500 was able to sprint from 0-60 mph in 5.7 seconds, 0-100 mph in 11.41 seconds, and averaged 157 mph during two 10-mile laps around the oval at Ford’s proving grounds in Romeo, Michigan. Swell stuff, considering the car weighed close to 3900 pounds.
Most prototypes like this – including Little Red – were ultimately scrapped once Ford had no use for the car, but the Green Hornet somehow managed to escape the crusher’s jaws. In late 1970, it surfaced at Ford’s employee vehicle auction lot, but its fuel injection system and IRS were stolen. It was rebuilt with a conventional carburetor and leaf springs, and was purchased by a Ford employee, who quickly flipped the car to a Ford dealer in northern Michigan.
The dealer’s son held onto the car, and discovered its true origins in the early 1990s. The car was restored to concours quality in 1993, complete with a new IRS built essentially from scratch. The car was later owned by Barrett-Jackson president Steve Davis, but was later purchased by the auction firm’s chairman and CEO, Craig Jackson. Jackson is apparently ready to part ways with the EXP-500, and it should cross the block as part of B-J’s annual Scottsdale auction in January of next year.
“The Green Hornet is an incredibly significant piece of Ford, Shelby, and muscle car history,” Jackson said in a prepared statement. “We couldn’t be prouder to have a vehicle that was so ahead of its time crossing our block.”