Motoramic

Why the first Ford GT prototype lives in a Long Island garage

Motoramic

In a small wooden garage on the north shore of Long Island sits something truly unique; something that even the most ardent car fanatics have likely never heard of. It's called CP1, or Confirmation Prototype 1. It was the first fully-functional Ford GT prototype produced in 2003 during the testing phase of the company's highly anticipated tribute to its Le Mans-winning GT40 racecar from the 1960s.

How CP1 ended up in this garage, and not in the Ford Museum, is a tale that dates back to 2008, when the entire world was on the brink of financial collapse and major American automakers, sensing imminent doom, began selling off non-essential assets, including their sizeable collections of one-off prototypes and historically significant vehicles. (Most notably, General Motors, in partnership with Barrett-Jackson Auctions, sold off a large portion of vehicles from its Heritage Center Collection in early 2009.)

According to the car's owner, Joseph Limongelli, a 47-year-old small business owner who playfully refers to himself as 'GT Joey', CP1 was purchased at a Ford-sponsored auction in late 2008, at the height of the financial crisis. "I bought it at a private event in Las Vegas," says Limongelli. "I was really excited to know I was going to get to own a piece of Ford history."

Limongelli, who is married and has two grown sons, says he cares for the car like a third child. "I want to preserve this very special car for future generations," he says. "I am its caretaker for the next 20 or 30 years, until it passes on to someone else. Under my ownership, it will always stay in factory condition. I will never change its unbelievable originality."

CP1's 'unbelievable originality' is perhaps what makes the car so tantalizing to Ford enthusiasts. The body and engine compartment feature a litany of non-standard components that never made it to final production; the airbags are taken from a Ford Mustang; the steering column is borrowed from a Ford Windstar; the cool silver trim rings on the seats didn't hold up during durability tests; the all-aluminum headliner, though aesthetically pleasing, was eliminated in favor of a more traditional sound-padded roof that offered a less cacophonous driving experience; a note scrawled in magic marker on the center console ominously instructs test drivers to "push red button to start" the rear-mounted V-8 engine.

Outside the cockpit things get even more experimental. The passenger rear quarter panel features two quick release valves connected to the fuel tank. According to Limongelli, the valves were installed by Ford engineers to aid in swift changes from high octane to low octane fuel grades. Extending beyond the rear bumper is a set of experimental exhaust pipes connected by a "sniffer pipe" which helped engineers determine accurate emissions output during the testing phase.

The engine compartment on CP1 is fitted with a carbon fiber rear clamshell that dramatically reduced curb weight. However, when Ford execs learned that each clamshell would cost approximately $45,000 to produce, the idea was scrapped in favor of a more traditional, and far less expensive, aluminum tub.

Despite the fact the CP1 has a fully functional powertrain, the car is limited to a top speed of just 5 mph and is not street legal, says Limongelli. Prior to the sale in 2008, Ford engineers installed a rev limiter chip in the engine to ensure the car would never be able to drive on city streets.

For Limongelli, who also owns several production GTs, the idea of not being able to drive the car was never a problem. "I knew what I was getting into when I purchased CP1," he says. "I bought a piece of GT history. I don't mind the fact that I can't get behind wheel."

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