The question arose as I quite some time ago read the headline: “In just one month, more than 6,500 buyers have signed up for the legendary Ford GT”. Followed by the rather cryptic addition: “At the same time, nearly 200,000 have configured their dream version of the legendary car online”. That is “legendary” in two consecutive sentences. And it was all about a brand new car, namely the new Ford GT.
This makes it nothing less than nonsense of legendary proportions. Because legends are something that (at least in recent times) are being created in action and out of a fantastic event. In the (very) olden days, a legend could also just happen to be concerning a holy person – which is something completely different, of course.
In this context, the difference doesn’t matter: Back at the introduction, the new Ford GT was neither sacred nor had it achieved anything great. It was just new.
The name, on the other hand, was old, and that was perhaps what confused the text writers within Ford Motor Company. The first Ford GT was introduced in 1964 and it later became truly legendary with no less than four Le Mans victories in a row. Read its story here.
But note that even this mighty car was not legendary when it arrived – it was also just new.
So how does a car become legendary? By accomplishing big feats. As we have pointed out before at ViaRETRO, motorsports related ones are some of the best in this sense. Yet, I don’t want to rule out that there are other ways: The Citroën DS was used in motorsport too, but its legendary status has mostly to do with the design. The Lamborghini Countach – well, is it a legend at all? No, not quite. Here we think of the big and unambiguous legends – created at Le Mans, Rallye Monte Carlo, Nürburgring, Mille Miglia – that sort of legend, where the name and the story stands above all else for years and years to come.
The only thing is, that most modern cars and especially supercars are increasingly being deprived of the opportunities they had in the old days. You don’t often drive races with cars that have anything to do with a road car, do you? And even if you do, it’s barely enough anymore. The McLaren F1 won Le Mans in 1995 with what was pretty much a race version of a road car. But is the F1 a legend today? Hmm, maybe – but that might also be because it was a truly great road car. Or it might even have something to do with the devaluation of the word legend itself.
The great hope for Ford at the time was that the new GT actually was put to use in motorsports: In ran at Le Mans 2016, and Ford’s vast PR machine drummed high and proud that it marked fifty years since the GT40’s first victory at Le Mans. The new car even won as well. But Ford spoke little about the fact that the new GT – unlike its predecessor – was not running for the general classification in the race (Porsche took the overall victory), but ran alongside other GT-based production cars in a lower category.
Not many legends were born out of that, and I think the GT will have a hard time establishing itself as one. Go for the original instead and you very much have the very definition of a legendary car.