GREEN HORNET – 1968 FORD SHELBY GT500 EXP PROTOTYPE
Ford Motor Company produced a 1968 Mustang notchback coupe called Green Hornet at the Dearborn Assembly Plant in the fall of 1967 as the prototype for the launch of the California Special. It and big brother Little Red, a 1967 Mustang, are the only notchback coupes produced by Ford Motor Company and Shelby Automotive. Each had a vital role in the decision to produce a special Shelby notchback coupe for the western region of the United States that included California.
From 1967 through 1970, Green Hornet evolved as a prototype for Ford Motor Company and Shelby Automotive. In the first stage of its prototype form, the Lime Gold Mustang coupe started out as a template for the GT/Super Coupe program and wore the GT-SC script on the quarter panel side scoops, then morphed or transitioned into the GT/CS “California Special.”
It was fitted with specially designed one-off features that included:
- Unique front grille from a 1967 Mustang modified to accommodate a set of Marchal fog lights
- Marchal fog lights
- Louvered hood
- Spin and Click hood pins
- Filled-in quarter-panel side scoops with black backing and scoop grille inserts
- Spoiler-style decklid and quarter-panel end caps
- Taillight closeout panel with 1965 Thunderbird non-sequential taillights
- Taillight backing plates
- Side stripes
- Decklid stripes
In the first quarter of 1968, the Green Hornet prototype was handed off to Shelby Automotive in Ionia, Michigan, where it was labeled EXP-500. Shelby Automotive added one-of-a-kind features designed to enhance performance while giving the notchback coupe a distinctive look. The Shelby enhancement package included:
- 428 CJ-X big-block V8 engine
- Shelby-designed C6 automatic transmission
- Independent rear suspension
- Conelec fuel injection
- 4-wheel disc brakes
At the request of Shelby Automotive Engineer Fred Goodell, EXP-500 was handed off to custom painter Sonny Fee (an employee of Shelby Automotive), who applied a special one-of-a-kind gold-luster-green-lacquer paint finish with gold metallic flake enhancements. The EXP-500 filled a vital role as a prototype test mule for Shelby Automotive. It’s the only documented Mustang notchback to have served as a dual prototype. Initially it served as the Ford Motor Company California Special prototype in late 1967, then Shelby Automotive EXP-500 prototype in early 1968.
Not long after the transformation of the ’68 notchback coupe by Shelby Automotive to EXP-500 form, it was given the nickname “Green Hornet,” presumably by comedian and actor Bill Cosby. He and Carroll Shelby had been friends. The Green Hornet nickname has stuck with the Shelby prototype for 50 years, and it’s recognized by this name in the Shelby and Mustang community. It’s commonly referred to as the Green Hornet.
Currently, the Green Hornet is undergoing a rotisserie restoration at Billups Classic Cars in Colcord, Oklahoma. In January 2018, nearly 50 years after debuting as the EXP-500, owner Craig Jackson, CEO of Barrett Jackson, reached out to Jason Billups and his world-class team to perform a historically correct restoration. The latest technology, documentation and expertise will be integrated into the restoration project. The one-of-a-kind ’68 Shelby notchback coupe is once again undergoing a transformation.
It was professionally restored in 1993 by the late Martin Euler. After researching the independent rear suspension and Conelec fuel-injection system, owner Craig Jackson decided it was time to update the 50-year-old Green Hornet. His intent is to make it fully functional and look factory-new, thus turning back the clock of time to when it was originally built as the EXP-500 by Shelby Automotive in 1968.
The entire restoration project from start to finish is being professionally documented at Billups Classic Cars for historical purposes. During the disassembly process of the EXP-500, the entire vehicle was dissected and carefully studied. Each part was evaluated for correctness and overall condition to determine if it belonged on the Green Hornet during the next stage of its historic transformation.
The restoration project is scheduled for completion in October 2018. A plan is in place to unveil the Green Hornet, at the Muscle Car and Corvette Nationals (MCACN) on Saturday, November 17, 2018, at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont, Illinois.
Look for periodic updates about the Green Hornet restoration project status on the Shelby Prototype Coupes website in the future.