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