Author & TV Host Joe Limongelli Talks Jaguar Passion
Enthusiast reveals how he turned his passion for cars into a celebrated career. Plus, ‘GT Joey’ shares deets about can’t-miss event for Jag fans!
Each and every one of us, no matter our differences, share at least one thing in common: a passion for automobiles. In this case, a shared love of Jaguar is what brings us together. So, we were more than a little delighted to recently speak with one of the most passionate Jaguar fans on the planet, Joe Limongelli, who has parlayed his love for iconic cars into stints as a TV correspondent and author.
Limongelli, or “GT Joey” as he’s also known, is the author of the new book Me and My Vanquish: An Aston Martin Adventure and the upcoming Me and My Jaguar. He has also gone Around the World in a Ford GT for a 2013 documentary and hosted the Velocity Channel’s Legends of Design: Astons and Jags. The tireless enthusiast also documents his many adventures on his popular auto-focused lifestyle blog, GT Joey.
If all of that isn’t enough, Limongelli is also bringing his Legends of Design stories to life at the upcoming Carlisle Import & Performance Nationals. Happening May 18 to 20 in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, the event promises to be chock-full of rare and amazing Jaguar (and Aston) vehicles, but the real draw is the fascinating panel discussion set to take place between Limongelli and some of the most famous names from the world of Jaguar.
Limongelli gives us the scoop on the legendary names coming to the Carlisle Import & Performance Nationals, along with what promises to be an enticing surprise he has in store for the show. And if there’s anything we learned in our chat with GT Joey, it’s that he is one of the most passionate Jaguar fans we’ve ever had the pleasure of speaking with!
Jaguar Forums: Among other makes, you’re a huge Jaguar enthusiast. What originally sparked your passion for the brand?
JOSEPH LIMONGELLI: It all started when I was just a kid. My favorite cartoon back then was Speed Racer. If you watch the credits at the end of each episode, you see stuff like a horse and wagon, then Model T-looking cars, then ’50s stuff. But then, near the end of the credits, there’s a maroon red convertible E-Type Jaguar, followed by a spaceship, kind of saying that Jag was the future. It left such an impression on me as a kid that I own that exact same car today. And of course, I was also a fan of The Avengers and the E-Type on that show.
What models/makes have you owned over the years, or own now?
I’ve owned them all, from Jaguar saloons to E-Types and everything in between.
What is it that you most appreciate about Jaguar automobiles?
Growing up as a kid in the Bronx in the ’60s and ’70s, when someone in your family made money, you moved up the GM ladder. You started out with a Chevy, then moved up to Oldsmobile, Buick, or Pontiac. If you made enough money, you bought a Cadillac. In 1972, my father finally made it to the point where he could afford a Caddy.
Then we moved from the Bronx to Long Island. We were cruising around in our Army green ’72 Caddy coupe when we came upon a brown ’72 Jaguar XJ6, and we both lost it. Back then, it was so over-the-top, so European. Where we were from, everyone just bought American, but now things had suddenly changed. All of a sudden we’re in a rich area and things were just different. The Caddy wasn’t bad, but it just wasn’t in the same league as the Jag. And that’s when I learned the true value of the brand.
Your nickname, “GT Joey,” is also the name of your auto-focused lifestyle blog. Where did the nickname came from?
I was a kid when the original Ford GT40 took over the racing world. I had a red slot car GT40 with white stripes. But this was a car that nobody could afford – they only built 6 Mk IIIs. So in 2003, when Bill Ford announced that they were redoing the GT, I had to have it. I bought a red one with white stripes, just like my slot car that I still had.
‘We were cruising around in our ’72 Caddy when we came upon a ’72 Jaguar XJ6, and we both lost it. It was so over-the-top, so European. The Caddy wasn’t bad, but it just wasn’t in the same league. And that’s when I learned the true value of the brand.’
Then I found out that Ford and I were the exact same age. I mailed him that slot car with my story. Amazingly enough, I got a phone call from him the very next day! I told him I wanted to write a book about the new GT, documenting the entire process of it being built. I did all of that with my own money. Since then, I’ve owned five GTs and even drove one around the world. It was just meant to be. But despite this love affair, no matter what, I’ve always come back to Jaguar.
You’ve written the book on Jaguar, literally. What have you learned while researching this fascinating read?
The history of Jaguar itself has been around 100 years, written a million times over by many people. But what has stood out the most to me is how much heritage still means to the company. Jaguar is still a small, family-based company. Norman Dewis, Jaguar’s original test-driver, is now 98 years old. But he still sits in on board meetings, and Jaguar execs still ask him his opinion on things. It’s not just a symbolic thing. This kind of thing just doesn’t happen at other, big car companies.
You were also able to get behind the camera on the Velocity TV show Legends of Design. What has that experience been like?
My first experience with TV was my six-part series Ford GT: An American Icon. I paid for that series with my own money and pitched it to Velocity, which was a bit of a risk. I did the editing, music, and everything. Velocity only had to play it once, then it could have been a big waste of time and money. But it became a huge hit, and they’ve shown it over 600 times to date.
That gave me the confidence to do another show. Bill Warner, president of the Amelia Island Concours, offered to let me use the event as a venue for the show. But we didn’t just want to focus on the old stuff. We wanted to draw in all the different age groups, not just specific models. Jaguar and Aston still make beautiful cars today, after all.
‘We’ll have plenty of rare & exciting Jaguars at the Import & Performance Nationals — even one that’s very special. You can bet it’ll be something else!’
We wanted to show the evolution, pre-war to post-war, all the way to modern times. Struggles, bankruptcy fears, buyouts, and all — to the point where both are tremendous brands today. It all turned out to be a big hit. We were able to get some of the rarest cars ever, some worth tens of millions of dollars.
We’re certainly looking forward to the “Legends of Design: Astons and Jags” exhibit at the upcoming Carlisle Import & Performance Nationals. We also heard, via a source, that there will be a “big surprise” in store. Any hints about that?
I’ve got some great guests lined up. For starters. Micheal Quinn, grandson of Jaguar founder Sir William Lyons and personal Jaguar representative to the Queen of England, is going to do the whole history of Jaguar from his grandparents down to him. Gary Bartlett, one of the foremost experts in classic Jaguar restorations will be there, too. As will Dave Welsh, owner of Welsh Enterprises, the largest independent supplier of Jaguar parts in North America.
We’ll have plenty of rare and exciting Jaguar models on hand, too, at Carlisle’s Import & Performance Nationals. There might even be one that’s very, very special. I can’t give any details on that just yet, but you can bet it’ll be something else!
One thing’s for sure, Limongelli’s “Legends of Design” event at Carlisle is shaping up as a must-attend for Jaguar fans across the world. It’s truly rare to see this caliber of experts gather in one place at one time. Plus, Limongelli will be signing copies of his latest book, Me & My E-Type Jaguar, as well as speaking about his next book, Me and My Jaguar, which will be out in 2019. Copies of Legends of Design will be available for purchase at the show.
The Carlisle Import & Performance Nationals takes place May 18-20 in Pennsylvania. Get more information on the historic event here. You can also learn more about GT Joey and follow along with his fascinating journey by visiting his website.