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Old 01-05-2007, 05:00 PM   #1
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The best, worst and weirdest car names

The best, worst and weirdest car names
Explorer, Ram certainly make sense, but how’d they come up with Alero?

By Dan Lienert

Updated: 1:34 p.m. ET Jan 5, 2007

Go to a McDonald's in Paris and you will notice several cheeseburgers in the "Royal" line: the Royal Deluxe, Royal Cheese and Royal Bacon ("royal" means the same thing in French and English).

McDonald's France says on its Web site that the Royal Cheese wears a sesame-seed bun for a crown. "It looks, in fact, like a king," the site states.

Folks, it's just a cheeseburger.

The auto industry, like McDonald's France, tries to mask lowbrow items with highbrow names. Did any of Chrysler's customers believe that driving a Dodge Diplomat would make them more ambassadorial? Did any General Motors buyers think a Pontiac Parisienne would make them French?

But if we can criticize American automakers for putting hundred-dollar names on ten-dollar cars, so to speak, we must also applaud Japanese automakers, who tend to endow their Japan-only cars with such delightfully puzzling names as Honda Motor's Life Dunk.

But Americans dominate the lists of the best and worst car names, mostly because we can't fault certain European names for getting lost in translation. In gathering our ideas on the best, worst and weirdest car names, we thought it unfair to include European names that are difficult to read or pronounce (e.g., the FSO Warszawa) and others that have a common meaning in Europe that is obscure in the U.S., such as the Invicta Black Prince Wentworth. (At least we hope it makes more sense over there.)

Ideally, the best car names are the ones that have been around for a while and have been able to withstand the test of time. No, the Lamborghini Diablo is no longer in production, but we have included it because it sounds vicious and sexy. It gets your blood going, and it suits the car.

Alphanumeric names are not particularly memorable, meaning that with a piece of this nature, you can skip over everything in the current rosters of Acura, BMW, Jaguar, Volvo, Saleen, Hummer, Infiniti, Lexus and Mercedes-Benz. Notice a pattern there? The brands that give their cars numbers and letters for names tend to be upscale. (Some upscale manufacturers don't use alphanumeric names. Rolls-Royce and Bentley are famous for bestowing their cars with such poetic names as Silver Ghost and Azure.)

A name doesn't have to be edgy or dangerous-sounding to be great, however. Some of the best names, such as Ford Motor's Explorer, are utilitarian. At the time of its introduction, the Explorer was a radical new thing — and its functional name implied that you could take the vehicle off-road, a message that Ford wanted to communicate. The Dodge Ram is another practical name given that it is a work truck. Calling it the "Horse" might not have been optimal, but giving it an animal name that doubles as a violent verb was a good move (the Ram is also Dodge's logo). Similarly, the name Land Rover — and to a lesser extent, its larger, more expensive cousin, Range Rover — aptly conveys that vehicle's ability to go wherever it likes and handle virtually any terrain.

The car names we like best — where the names not only suit the cars' natures but also sound, for lack of a better word, "cool" — include such automotive legends as the AC Shelby Cobra, Chevrolet Corvette, DeSoto Firedome, Dodge Viper, Lamborghini Diablo, Plymouth Barracuda and Rolls-Royce Phantom.

There are other great names out there, but you get the idea. The best use for the list above is as a point of comparison against the bad names you are about to endure. The worst car names tend to fall into two categories. The first concerns made-up names such as the Oldsmobile Alero and Chevrolet Lumina. They sound like Latin, but they're not really words as far as we know. In fact, we may get letters telling us that a "Lumina" is a real thing, though we doubt it. Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary has no record of such a word. The closest is the Latin word "lumen," which means "light." But what does light have to do with this Chevy sedan? Not much.

Then there are just inexplicable misspellings, such as the Chevrolet Luv truck. Ditto for the Pontiac Aztek.

Those car names that just don't make any sense to us include, among others, the Buick Reatta; Oldsmobile Achieva, Bravada, Firenza and Futuramic; Pontiac Astre and Fiero; and the Saturn Vue.

The other set of worst car names consists of those that seem to be calculated attempts to play upon consumer class-consciousness and social insecurities. These names conjure images of country clubs and glamorous lifestyles, yet, for the most part, are cars that were targeted at buyers of more modest means. We doubt any celebrities ever owned Chevrolet Celebrity station wagons, for example.

Among the other cars we include in this group are the Buick LeSabre; Chevrolet Greenbrier; Chrysler LeBaron; Dodge Coronet, Crestwood, Diplomat, Dynasty and St. Regis; Ford Aspire; Lincoln Versailles; Pontiac Executive; and Rambler Country Club.

The best part of researching this story, however, was the process of combing through the names of cars sold in Japan with odd English titles. There are a couple of European models on our list, but Japanese automakers are the true champions of putting out the wildest car names.

Among the ones that made us smile are the Daihatsu Motor Naked; Honda Life Dunk and That's; Isuzu GIGA 20 Light Dump and Mysterious Utility; Mazda Motor Bongo; Mitsubishi Delica Space Gear and Pistachio; Nissan Fairlady Z and Prairie Joy; Rickman Space Ranger; Rinspeed X-Dream; Suzuki Cappucino; Toyota Motor Deliboy and Toyopet; Volkswagen Thing and Volugrafo Bimbo. We think it's a shame that the Honda Life Dunk doesn't sell over here. Its goofy yet inspiring name would probably attract a fair number of buyers.

And what we wouldn't give to see a French dealership offering a Royal Honda Prince Life Dunk, or somesuch.
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Old 07-06-2009, 03:18 PM   #2
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could someone please explain how "aveo" was decided upon as a name? and while you're at it, could someone tell me how the pontiac aztec ever got the green light for production? it's got a face only a mother could love.
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Old 07-06-2009, 04:21 PM   #3
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I'm surprised the TA isn't in the best list. Pontiac Trans Am just sounds tight coming off the tongue.
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Old 07-06-2009, 05:47 PM   #4
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I'm surprised the TA isn't in the best list. Pontiac Trans Am just sounds tight coming off the tongue.


The Rolls Royce Silver Seraph is a pretty hot name too.
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Old 07-06-2009, 06:06 PM   #5
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Ford Galaxie was actually a pretty cool name, and in this rare case the name was arguably even that much better for the incorrect spelling.
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Old 07-06-2009, 08:13 PM   #6
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Rolls Royce and Bentley do have good names. I disagree with the criticism of Volkswagen's "Thing". What else would you call it?

According to a review by Jeremy Clarkson, apparently the Kia Rio goes by the name SF in Korea, for Science Fiction. If true, I think that wins for worst name, since the Rio might be as far from science fiction as you can get.
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Old 07-07-2009, 12:42 AM   #7
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Ford Falcon and GTO are great names too
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Old 07-07-2009, 01:11 AM   #8
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It's cool people vs people in suits.

People in suits make the stupid names .. like Ford 500 or crysler 300....
That's NOT EVEN A NAME YOU IDIOTS... A suit won't take a risk where as an artist will.

Now Camaro.. that's a name.. or Mustang.
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Old 07-07-2009, 01:17 AM   #9
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Cadillac did have a naming system that made sense until this year.

CTS = Catera Touring Sedan
STS = Seville Touring Sedan
DTS = Deville Touring Sedan
SRX = Seville Recreational Crossover
XLR = X-something Luxury Roadster

Now we have CTS Sportwagon. Catera Touring Sedan Sportwagon? And Catera Touring Sedan Coupe?
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Old 07-07-2009, 02:03 AM   #10
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Yeah, now that Cadillac's names don't mean anything, they need to have a cohesive, organized system of naming rules in place. BMW has a fairly logical system:

Sedans, coupes, convertibles, and wagons have a 3 digit number. The first digit indicates model and increases according to size (1 series is the smallest, 7 series the largest) and the second two numbers indicate trim (now that's where it gets sketchy, since the two digit trim number has no apparent correlation to displacement, power, or anything else like that). Letters on the end indicate special options, like X indicating AWD.
Roadsters are indicated by a "Z" followed by the model number.
CUVs are indicated by an "X" followed by the model number

Mercedes is more complicated, having many more model lines. Unlike BMW, that has a 3 series coupe, convertible, and sedan (and soon a GT hatch-ish thing), Mercedes has different model designations for each. It helps if you know some German. K stands for Kurtz, which is German for "short". So an SLK is a smaller version of an SL, sort of. Like BMW, letter designations for models are followed by numbers for trim.

Audi may have the best with numbers once again indicating models ascending according to size, like BMW, only this time preceded by letters indicating body style or vehicle type: A for sedan, coupe, or hatch, S for performance versions of the A models, RS for extra high performance versions of the A models, Q for CUVs, R for sports cars. Simple.

Lexus is simply a letter followed by "S" for sedans and "X" for crossovers, and a number indicating trim. Like Cadillac, no real order. The model hierarchy does not follow the alphabetical order of letters. Then again, the IS convertibles and coupes break this trend, as does the SC.

Infiniti is very simple, straight-forward, and logical. G is entry level, M is upper level for sedans/coupes/convertibles, EX is entry level, FX is upper level for CUVs, and the number following indicates engine size in tenths of a liter of displacement. Brilliant!

Cadillac and Lexus should make their naming schemes more logical. It would allow consumers to more easily grasp the product hierarchy. I'd like to see Cadillac go back to actual names, but sadly most of theirs have been tainted by poor past products. Too bad, as a real name would allow the cars to be distinguished from the competition's alpha-numeric jumble and would in a way evoke the Rolls Royce and Bentley tradition of giving cars beautiful names.
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Old 07-07-2009, 02:22 AM   #11
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I hate to cross the line on bad taste, but there is a guy at my office that says any car name that you can add "anal" to the front of it and it makes some sense is a bad name for a car. This might hurt the following vehicles just to name a few:

Explorer
Probe
Navigator
Intrigue
Excursion
Vue
Charger
Silver Mist
Silver Cloud
Liberty
Sonata
Accent
Fiesta
...you get the picture. Please feel free to submit your favorites.
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Old 07-07-2009, 02:26 AM   #12
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On a semi-related note, my 1970 Cutlass came with the plates 599ANL. My friend's sister was kind enough to point out between the plates and the car's name there was "anal" and "ass".
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Old 07-07-2009, 10:08 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Killer Bee View Post
I hate to cross the line on bad taste, but there is a guy at my office that says any car name that you can add "anal" to the front of it and it makes some sense is a bad name for a car. This might hurt the following vehicles just to name a few:

Explorer
Probe
Navigator
Intrigue
Excursion
Vue
Charger
Silver Mist
Silver Cloud
Liberty
Sonata
Accent
Fiesta
...you get the picture. Please feel free to submit your favorites.
Don't forget Pathfinder.

Ooo. And Pilot.
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Old 07-07-2009, 08:22 PM   #14
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Pilot...hilarious!
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Old 07-08-2009, 02:42 AM   #15
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What about the 'Edsel'
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Old 07-08-2009, 03:20 AM   #16
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Bronco
Trailblazer
Sunfire

They're pretty wierd.
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Old 07-08-2009, 04:44 AM   #17
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Gremlin, Pinto, anyone?
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Old 07-08-2009, 04:49 PM   #18
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What about the 'Edsel'
Edsel wasn't a bad name, per se. It just got attached to a poorly timed, poorly marketed car.
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Old 07-08-2009, 04:52 PM   #19
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Bronco
Trailblazer
Sunfire

They're pretty wierd.
I think those names make more sense than average. Bronco conjures images of a wild, powerful horse. Trialblazer creates images of ruggedness, innovation, newness, adventure, and speed. Sunfire sounds hot, powerful.
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Old 07-09-2009, 06:14 AM   #20
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Edsel wasn't a bad name, per se. It just got attached to a poorly timed, poorly marketed car.
No, its a bad name. Lol.
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