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A Fresh Petunia for Your Garden

Wednesday, 08 June 2016 14:34


by Steve Magnante

June 8, 2016 - When Ford sought to properly celebrate its centennial of operations with a suitable halo offering, the reborn Ford GT was the stunningly successful result.

In charge of its gestation from pen-and-ink blue-sky renderings to the showroom floor were Ford’s best and brightest talents, with Camilo Pardo, J. Mays and even Carroll Shelby lending their talents. To assure security, the program was not to be discussed outside of work and a most absurd cover name was assigned to the effort: Petunia. Yes, Petunia. If that didn’t throw snoops, spies and skulks off the scent of this 550 horsepower supercar, nothing would.

Today we all know the result of the Petunia program was the iconic 2005-2006 Ford GT, an instant legend and current darling on the worldwide collector car auction scene. But like every new vehicle release, the Ford GT program spawned a small number of pre-production prototypes meant for in-house evaluation and testing before the final product was released to the general public. Often referred to as mules, these hand-built pre-production development cars are not meant for retail sale and are unceremoniously fed into crushers when their usefulness is complete.

2004 Ford GT Prototype interior Picmonkey

But in the case of the 2004 Ford GT CP-1 (Lot #654) development mule offered for bidding here, a rare opportunity presents itself for one lucky bidder to purchase a true one-of-none example of the breed. How’s that? Well, first of all, a check of any reference on the reborn Ford GT will clearly indicate all of them were built to 2005 and 2006 model year specifications. There simply were no Ford GTs sold to the public as 2004 models. Also, a review of the specifications of the 4,038 GTs manufactured (2,027 for the 2005 model year and 2,011 for the 2006 run) will reveal that none were fitted with the aluminum headliner, carbon-fiber engine clamshell or silver seat inserts featured in this example.

It’s all because this is a Confirmation Prototype model that was assembled in 2003. Referred to internally at Ford as CP unit number one (CP-1), it was part of the evolution process that resulted in the actual finished vehicles, without being one of them itself. Records show this car was the very first running Ford GT assembled with a fully functioning drivetrain and interior. All prior renderings were non-powered and were mostly pushed around for car show duties. But not CP-1, this workhorse has covered many miles at Ford’s Proving Grounds and on lightly traveled public roads (undoubtedly with body cladding to disguise its true identity).

A fascinating snapshot look into the efforts of production engineers to bring the GT program to fruition, CP-1 was used to calibrate engine exhaust system performance for federal EPA compliance. It is fitted with an exotic prototype exhaust system with sensor mounts and a unique sniffer pipe used during testing. Numerous electronic sensor connections remain in place, and the 5.4-liter supercharged DOHC power plant was assembled and installed before the decisions were made regarding final production dress. In place of the now-familiar blue cam covers and silver-tone supercharger used on regular production variants, the big Cammer in CP-1 wears simple blacked-out finishes. And while regular production GTs wear polished Ford Performance cam cover plates, oddly, the “InTech 32 Valve V8” cam cover appliques on CP-1 are from the Lincoln parts bin.

Having been used for several months by engineers in daily test cycles, a certain level of expected wear is evident. The Ford GT bucket seats were initially envisioned to carry 24 circular aluminum vents for air circulation. But as CP-1 shows (several are missing), they had a tendency to come loose and get lost. Thus a decision was made to switch to simpler vent inserts with a black finish on the retail version.

2004 Ford GT Prototype taillight shelby Picmonkey

Additional details suggesting this is no ordinary GT are the quick-fill fuel connections cut into the right rear rocker panel, ahead of the massive Goodyear Eagle F1 tire. As part of CP-1’s EPA test cycle, engine emissions performance on various fuel grades was studied. These dedicated fill valves made the switch from low octane to high octane much easier and faster. And as is the case with most development mules, many parts of the body and interior bear handwritten instructions and notes gathered by test engineers. The handwritten note applied to the center console reads “push red button to start” and speaks to CP-1’s non-glamourous but essential role in the Ford GT supercar development saga. Other bits of fascinating graffiti include the signatures of 13 members of the Ford GT design team, including Carroll Shelby, Bill Ford, GT Chief Designer Camillo Pardo and GT Chief Design Engineer Fred Goodnow.

Though CP-1 wears a full 17-digit VIN – replete with a sequence number reading 0004 – it is not federally certified for use on public roads and is fitted with computer calibrations that prevent road use (maximum speed is restricted to 5 mph). None of it diminishes CP-1’s key role in the Ford GT development program or its desirability. The opportunity to own a pre-production development mule rarely comes up, and when the subject vehicle enjoys the instant-legend status of the reborn Ford GT, smart collectors rush to seize the opportunity.

Editor’s note: Author Steve Magnante is an independent automotive journalist, but our source for this article was Barrett-Jackson, which will be auctioning this piece of automotive history. For up-to-date information on this vehicle, click HERE.

Last modified on Wednesday, 08 June 2016 14:53


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