A good name can make a car a classic; a bad one can condemn it, writes PAUL GOVER
MUSTANG. Land Cruiser. Enzo. These are three of the greatest names in the history of motoring. A Mustang is a wild brumby in the US but also one of the all-time best muscle cars; the Land Cruiser does just what the name says, even if the land is the worst of the Australian Outback; and the Enzo is a tribute to the man who founded the world’s best-known super car company, Ferrari.
But the name game can go badly wrong.
The Nissan Cedric was never going to be a hit in Australia with a name that creates a picture of an aging uncle Arthur in a cardigan, Taurus is tough in the US but was always going to flop against the Falcon, and the Skoda Roomster has just been dumped after failing to fi nd a home down under.
Holden was careful to avoid the VD in its Commodore line, but why did it start with the VB and not the VA? And what about the Statesman, which went well as the WB but was never updated into the WC? Just this week I was following a Citroen Jumpy delivery van in Portugal, and wondering if the name was a reflection of the driver’s behaviour or the way it runs on the road.
The craziness goes on and on, like the Citroen Picasso people mover which is anything but an oil painting.
Today’s showrooms also have cars whose names have more numbers and letters than a cryptic crossword, with just as much meaning.
Who really knows the difference between an A7 and a C350? But head back in history and there are some absolute clangers.
Henry Ford named the 1950s Edsel after his son, but is now recorded as one of the biggest flops in blue-oval history.
Japan has given us everything from the Daihatsu Rocky and Rugger to the Honda Ascot and Acty Crawler and on through the Isuzu Big Horn to the Subaru Justy.
Nissan created the Tiida name from nothing, even though it claims it has something to do with waves breaking on a beach, and Lexus is even a madeup brand name, in contrast to Mercedes
“The Nissan Cedric was never going to be a hit in Australia with a name that creates a picture of an aging uncle Arthur in a cardiganw”
which was named after an early Daimler customer’s daughter.
Over in America, the AMC Gremlin was a flop, the Dodge Neon never went up in lights, Plymouth Reliant never lived up to its promise, and the Lincoln Town Car was so big it needed its own postcode.
Even some of the names which have worked create more questions than answers about their creation.
The Kia Mentor is more likely to need one, the Honda Jazz is not much of a music machine and the Suzuki Cappucino was too frothy to sell in Australia. Some names also paint a picture because of their history. Mention Celica and lots of people in Australia think hairdresser.
Ask about the Nissan GT-R and you’ll hear about Godzilla.
Camry is short for fridge-on-wheels, Kingswood is classic sixties kitsch, and then there is the Goggomobil.
So, what’s causing a Rukus today? The Toyota Rukus, for a start. We could also get the Nissan Cube, which is as boxy as its name, although Nissan Australia is also pushing for a return of the Pulsar badge which worked so well before the silly switch to Tiida.
Right now we have the Skoda Superb in Australian showrooms. If that’s not a name which creates a serious expectation then we don’t know our Falcodores.
Family ties: Henry Ford’s biggest flop was the Edsel,
named after his son.