The Top 20 Most Unfortunate Car Names
When it comes to a car’s identity, its name is arguably the biggest defining factor. Yes, even more than the styling; would the Mustang be the smashing success it has been for almost a quarter century if it had been called the KB112-C? Would the Jaguar E-Type still be one of the sexiest cars of all time if it had instead been christened the Diabetic Chestwaxer? We’re guessing the answers are “No,” and “No.”
However, for all the brilliant car names sprinkled across the annals of history, there are some that just make you ask a) “What was the marketing department on?” and b) “Where can I get some?” Here are what we feel are 20 of the loopiest labels in automotive history.
Cadillac Eldorado ETC
Around the turn of the century, Cadillac started moving away from cool (some might call them “real”) names like DeVille, Seville and Eldorado to an alphabet soup scheme to bring them more in line with the import makes. (Lincoln has done the same thing of late and, interestingly, both have left their full-size SUVs as the only models with normal names.) While CTS, DTS and STS lack the romance of old names, they work well enough…which was more than could be said for the name that was bestowed upon what was the Eldorado Touring Coupe. Its name was simply shortened into…ETC. If it wasn’t an afterthought before, it was after the name change, and the Eldorado was killed off altogether soon after.
BMW 1 Series M Coupe
BMW has just brought out a hot version of its 1 Series coupe. But even though it comes out of the M Division (and features M3 suspension bits), it’s not called the M1. Not wanting to annoy fans of the original M1 (a Giugiaro-penned mid-engine supercar from the late-‘70s and early-‘80s), the motor mavens in Munich instead named it the 1 Series M Coupe. That may placate the M1 fanboys, but it just comes across as an awkward, tacky and verbose cop-out. Besides, what about the fans of the original M Coupes, hmm?
In the mid-‘80s, Ford came perilously close to transforming the Mustang into a V8-free, front-wheel drive model co-developed with Mazda. Only after the legions of fans of Dearborn’s pony car went apesh*t at the prospect of a car that made the Pinto-based Mustang II look pure by comparison did company execs decide to keep it true to its roots.
However, the car that was to have been the new Mustang was still released, as the Ford Probe. Now the suits probably thought the name (borrowed from a series of concept cars) conjured up images of spacecraft like NASA’s Voyager and Mariner series. The reality was it didn’t take long for some considerably less mature individuals to think of the word “probe” and its, er, amorous connotation. And no, we can’t confirm that a Mercury version called the Grope was ever considered.
Tiny, back-to-basics, Jeep-like SUVs from Japan are quite appealing: Bigger and more roadworthy than a UTV, but not big and full of unnecessary fluff and luxuries. Such a pity, then, that one of Daihatsu’s (Remember them?) early 4x4s had to be called the Scat in select markets. Yeah, we know, scat isn’t just slang for fecal matter, but there are lots of folks who simply can’t pass up a poop joke.
When Jaguar heavily redesigned its junior S-Type sedan in 1966, it looked to the engine displacement for a name, something BMW and Mercedes-Benz have done for many moons now (though these days they play it a lot more fast and loose, e.g. a 3.0L twin-turbo straight six yields a 740i). Since the six-cylinder XK engine had grown to 4.2L by that time, Jag brass dubbed the new saloon the 420. The larger Mark X was facelifted and renamed the 420G the same year.
But 1966 was also around the time the drug culture was moving out of the shadows and into the mainstream (or at least, the mainstream if you lived in San Francisco near the intersection of Haight and Ashbury). Eventually, a new euphemism for marijuana emerged that also referred to a sort of holy day among the reeferistas: 420. And to think the VW Transporter still gets all the love…
Back in the day, Volkswagen was notoriously unimaginative when it came to naming its products. The Beetle was actually referred to as the Sedan, while VW of America’s marketing department often called the Microbus the Station Wagon. So you can imagine the head scratching that ensued when they were tasked with giving the Type 181 – a slab-sided, four-door convertible SUV-ish vehicle – a name for the U.S. market. Apparently they took a long, hard look at it and finally came up with…Thing. While many will concede it’s cute (us included), it kinda gives the impression that there isn’t much creativity to go around.
When your cars have a reputation for spotty reliability, it’s probably not a great idea to name them after some sort of destructive force or catastrophe. Renault, therefore, showed a lot of Gaul (*ba-boom…tish!*) in naming its sport coupe of the ‘80s the Fuego. Why? Fuego is Spanish for fire. Ay ay ay…
You know, it’s funny how a word can mean one thing in one culture and something completely different in another. Take the “lacrosse,” for instance; Buick thought so highly of this sport’s name that they plastered it on their midsize sedan which debuted as a 2005 model. There was just one small problem: In Canada’s French-speaking province of Quebec, “la crosse” is slang for, uh, self-gratification. Thankfully, Buick was able to change the GWNDM (Great White North Domestic Market) version of the car’s name to Allure at the 11th hour. Crisis averted!
Monteverdi Hai 450 GTS
What could be better than a Nixon Era Swiss supercar powered by a mid-mounted Chrysler 426 Street Hemi? Other than sharing sheets with Genevieve Morton and a lifetime supply of Barnum’s Animal Crackers (Surely they must have a little crack in ‘em to be that tasty…), not a whole hell of a lot, if you ask us. But a lot has changed since the Monteverdi Hai 450 GTS arrived on the motoring scene…namely the Internet or, if you’re into specificity, LOLspeak. So if you do drive one, be prepared to field at least a few “O HAI” quips from the peanut gallery. THEN SHO DEM UR HEMI HORSPOWAHZ AND U CAN HAZ TEH LAST LOL.
You might remember this son-of-a-Brinks from our 25 Worst Concept Car Atrocities list, but it makes its triumphant(?) return on the strength (again, ?) of its headdesk-inducing moniker. The story goes that Ford originally wanted to call this car the Armadillo, but Fiat had recently done a concept car using that name. After considering “Knox” (Heh, Ford Knox…) and “Gorilla,” Ford settled on a contraction of “synthesis” and “urban sanctuary (US).” That apparently not a single soul, at any point during the process of devising the name, figured a great many people would pronounce it “sinus,” is like a grenade detonated atop our frail little minds.