By on July 14, 2009

Glenn sent us a link to this list on oddee.com. And the winners are:

10. AMC Gremlin – Wikipedia: “Gremlin is an English folkloric creature, commonly depicted as mischievous and mechanically oriented, with a specific interest in aircraft. Although their origin is found in myths among airmen, claiming that the gremlins were responsible for sabotaging aircraft, John W. Hazen states that ‘some people’ derive the name from the Old English word gremian, ‘to vex’. Since World War II, different fantastical creatures have been referred to as gremlins, bearing varying degrees of resemblance to the originals.” Such as . . . Howie Mandel. The AMC Gremlin wasn’t known as much for mechanical malfunctions as its questionable styling. That said the name didn’t stop 671,475 American and Canadian customers from buying one. Well, I assume it was one.

9. Dodge Swinger – Actually, it was the Dodge Dart Swinger. Which, I suppose, adds to the sexual connotations. But what’s wrong with that? Especially as the Swinger had the stones for the job. “The Swinger 340 was the lowest-priced high-performance Dodge in ’69, and the 340 4-bbl. V8 delivering 275 hp with Rallye Suspension, wide tread tires, and Firm Ride shocks certainly delivered performance bang for the buck,” legacydiecast.com reports. “The heavy-duty Rallye Suspension, Firm Ride shocks, and Red Line wide tread tires completed the package . . . Both the Swinger 340 and GTS proudly wore the distinctive ‘bumblebee stripes’ to claim their places of honor in the Dodge Scat Pack.” While Ella Fitzgerald fans would be happy with that term, I’m so sure how zoologists would take it.

8. Daihatsu Charade – For Americans, the name calls up images of a benefit to help pay for Cher’s cosmetic surgery. For Brits, it’s intellectual foreplay leading to a little late-night country house bed hopping. I take oddee’s point: “It’s not really a car, it’s just pretending!” But by 1977, most Americans were more familiar with the Talking Heads than . . . two words, first word, first two syllables, kill hat, stomp on hat, die hat! It could have been worse. Anyone remember the game Cootie? Kerplunk?

7. Honda Fitta – Yes, it’s true: “fitta” means “cunt” in Swedish and Norwegian. But Honda caught the mistake before launch and dropped the T&A for the U.S. market. Outside the U.S., Honda markets the car as the Jizz. I mean, Jazz. Under which the vocal technique scat falls. Spooky.

6. Opel Ascona – oddee says “ascona” means “female genitalia” in Northern Spain and parts of (I would have thought southern) Portugal. Is that an anatomical term, as opposed to, say, the aforementioned “cunt”? Online dictionaries aren’t much help here—an indication of electronic prurience rather than a gap in the hive’s collective knowledge. Perhaps the Best and Brightest would like to fill it—I mean us in.

5. Chevrolet Nova – Perhaps the most famous poorly named automobiles, meaning “doesn’t go” in Spanish. But oddee repeats a commonly held misconception: Chevy marketed the Nova as such in “Central and South America”. Not true. From ’62 to ’74, the model was called the “Chevy 400” in Agentina. Until it was rechristened the “Malibu.” During its last year of production, it was the “Opus 78.”

4. Buick LaCrosse – Also notorious, this time for meaning “masturbation” in Quebec. Yes, well, it’s a pretty obscure piece of slang. You don’t find tens of thousands of male and female lacrosse (small “c”) players sniggering about whackin’ off, despite the obvious, infantile possibilities presented by a lacrosse stick with an ascona-like shaped net. To my mind, the real problem here is that lacrosse was American Indian’s ritualized warfare (complete with dead players). With the Buick Wildcat confined to the scrapheap of history, and Maximum Bob talking about the brand as a soft-riding Lexus competitor, I’m not seeing the intersect between name and reality.

3.  Nissan Moco – oddee tells us that “moco” is Spanish slang for booger (again, the e-dictionaries take a pass). As the Moco was marketed in Japan, it’s no biggie. I am, however, wondering what oddee’s opprobrium means for the lyrics to Lady Marmelade’s Voulez Vous Coucher Avec Moi. “Mocha chocalata ya ya?” Ew.

2. Mitsubishi Pajero – Wikipedia says the model was named after the “Leopardus pajeros, the Pampas Cat which inhabits the Patagonia plateau region in southern Argentina.” Yes, well, it’s the Spanish equivalent of LaCrosse. Again, the car was renamed for Spanish-speaking markets. In fact, “Thanks to their success, the Pajero, Montero and Shogun names were also applied to other, mechanically unrelated models, such as the Pajero Mini kei car, the Pajero Junior and Pajero iO/Pinin mini SUVs, and the Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero/Shogun Sport.”

1. Mazda LaPuta – oddee kind of messes this one up, by capitalizing the “p” (“LaPuta”). In fact, the vehicle was named after the flying island in Gulliver’s Travels, “a kingdom devoted to the arts of music and mathematics but utterly unable to use these for practical ends.” Not an auspicious name for car. And there’s no getting around this one: “puta” means whore in Spanish. Personally, I’m not so sure it’s an inappropriate name for a small Mazda. I called my Mazda GLC the english equivalent many times.

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99 Comments on “Editorial: “Ten Most Unfortunate Car Names”...”


  • avatar
    Cicero

    The name Ford Aspire left no doubt that even Ford didn’t think you should be satisfied with it. Basically, it suggested an automotive placeholder that would have to do until you could afford something respectable.

  • avatar

    Re. 6: People from Ascona (c.f. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ascona) will get a kick out of these explanations…

  • avatar
    kowsnofskia

    Where’s the Ford Probe?

    That was a doozy if there ever was one.

    In fact, Ford in general seems to have a talent for picking out goofy car names. “Flex” just makes me think of the vehicle flexing like a piece of cooked broccoli. “Freestyle”? What exactly was so “freestyle” about that design? “Freestar”? WTF? “Pinto”? Was it named after pinto beans? Aspire was also certainly a dumb naming choice for an entry-level car.

    This goofiness in nomenclature extends to GM also. In the wild, the impala is a fast, swift, agile antelope. The Chevy Impala, on the other hand, possesses none of those traits. And what exactly about the Chevy Malibu is supposed to conjure up images of Malibu, CA? Is the Chevy Cobalt supposed to make me think of its namesake (a blue, magnetic metal)? And while we’re at it, what the hell is up with the GMC “Jimmy”?

    And don’t even get me started with the Plymouth Acclaim (which deserved no acclaim), the Dodge Spirit (which had no spirit save perhaps with the R/T trim line), the Chevy Citation (which should have been written a citation), the Ford Escort (which always made me think of escort services), the Toyota Cressida (was Toyota aware that she was an untrustworthy traitor in Greek mythology?), the Volkswagen Golf (was the car supposed to be as boring as a game of golf?), the Mitsubishi Mirage (it’s so small it’s not even there? it’s an illusion?), etc.

  • avatar
    pb35

    I had a Ford Probe GT back in the 90s; great car, unfortunate name.

    Looking back, I guess it’s better they named it Probe rather than Mustang ;-)

  • avatar
    jimble

    Snopes says the Nova story is an urban legend:
    http://www.snopes.com/business/misxlate/nova.asp

  • avatar
    fincar1

    There was a comic who did a whole routine on car names. His best examples were the two-car families. You could have a Laser and a Blazer, a Probe and a Lancer, a Shadow and an Eclipse…well, you can think of more. Of course, Audi owners who take the car to the dealer for its scheduled service are just doing their Audi duty.

  • avatar

    Where’s the Hummer?

  • avatar
    Nicholas Weaver

    However, Laputa was probably a deliberate name on Swift’s part.

    And #7 shouldn’t be on there, since it did get caught in time.

  • avatar
    johnthacker

    In fact, the vehicle was named after the flying island in Gulliver’s Travels, “a kingdom devoted to the arts of music and mathematics but utterly unable to use these for practical ends.”

    Yes, but Jonathan Swift had a real scatological sense of humor, and Laputa is generally believed to be named by him in full knowledge and intended reference to the Spanish.

  • avatar
    Lokkii

    Well, perhaps #7 could be replaced with the JDM Nissan Cherry.

    Here’s all you need to know about that model:

    Expensive and rare when new – not worth anything used. :-)

  • avatar
    NickR

    Yes, Nova the name was of course used but the interpretation of the name is wrong. This urban myth has been hanging around for years…even my marketing prof used it.

    Ah yes, the Hummer. I remember at my old job we had a day where we all went to a go kart track in the evening. Afterward we got to talking cars and at one point one of our co-workers said matter-of-factly ‘My wife doesn’t even know what a Hummer is.’ I tried not to laugh out loud…and failed.

  • avatar
    Daniel J. Stern

    The ad’s a little schizoid, calling the 1971 Swinger “brand new” then contradicting themselves at the end by saying how popular the ’70 Swinger was. In fact, 1969 was the first year for the Swinger. But aw hell, everything was being called “Swinger” back then, from Dodge Darts to Polaroid cameras.

    I’m curious how the fire-prone Pontiac Fiero managed to avoid this list, but I suppose it had to be constrained to ten or it’d be endless. The Ford Gran Torino (“Big Turin”…huh???), the Yugo (mostly you don’t), the Citation (Uh…hey Beavis, I just…like…figured something out!), anything from Toyota with TRD emblazoned a little too proudly on its flanks.

    And that’s without we don’t discard all restraint and take inventory of English-language model names in the Japanese market, home to Suzuki’s Every Joy Pop Turbo and Alto Afternoon Tea, the Mazda Scrum Wagon and Bongo Friendee, the Mitsubishi Lettuce and Mum 500 Shall We Join Us…and the Mitsubishi T-box.

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    I know first hand about the “Nova” urban legend. When I was in the Spanish-language tv business, it was always bandied about by agencies that specialized in ethnic marketing as the ultimate mistake. But I knew then that the Nova had never been marketed in Latin America. There may have been some Novas sold in Mexico, but the source of the “No-va” legend began with Spanish language advertising agencies.

    If this was thetruthaboutspanishlanguagetv.com, I’d have quite a few BS type stories to tell.

  • avatar
    Samir

    We need a list of cool names.

  • avatar
    ruckover

    From a Letterman Top Ten from years ago:
    The Dodge Johnson
    The Ford Gelding

  • avatar
    Jeffer

    The Oldsmobile Achieva should be on the list, it sounds like a sneeze.

  • avatar
    Lokkii

    And then of course, back in the mid 60’s when I was learning to read, there was the day when we drove up behind a big new Pontiac Grand Prix.

    I was proud to read the name aloud. Apparently I wasn’t familiar with French at that age, because I pronounced the the “X”.

    My father laughed so hard he almost drove off the road, and didn’t stop until my mother hit him :-0

  • avatar
    GS650G

    In Japan there were cars with names like Bluebird and ED that never made it here, although the Bluebird looked like a Q45 of sorts.

    Korea had Bongo Wagons. And the Ford Fiesta was sold as a Pico in Korea, some called it Pee-Car as a slang along with Daewoo Lemans being called the Daewoo Lemon.

    After all the research, marketing and engineering you would think someone would stand up and say we can’t call our product a name that elicits laughter because people will laugh at our customers. This kind of marketing and buzz is not good.

  • avatar
    Flipper

    Isuzu Ass-ender, Pontiac ass-tec anyone. . . ?

  • avatar

    I always thought it was strange that manufactures would stick “Limited” on an SUV. I mean, you expect your rough and ready SUV to be able to do it all, then you find out it’s “Limited.” But then again, maybe that explains why so many have never been off the highway.

  • avatar
    rjones

    I’ve always thought “Vanagon” was a very stupid name. But not stupid enough to stop me from owning one.

  • avatar
    dolorean23

    I keep waiting for Honda Spasm to replace the Fit and for Mercury to offer a De Sade edition Grand Marquis.

    The Pontiac Fiero means “lump of metal” in Spanish, I’ve been told. And the Chevette, just because of the lame-ass who told you he had a “Vette” and thought it was funny.

    rjones, thats why VeeDub made it the Eurovan :)

  • avatar
    tauronmaikar

    Mazda LaPuta – Hahahaha…

    Only the Japanese can come up with that level of kinkiness. Oh they didn’t know? I am not so sure. After all this is the country that have vending machines that sell little bottles of teenage girl urine and used panties.

  • avatar
    tauronmaikar

    Lets not forget the GMC Yukon – in the spanish slang of most spanish-speaking countries, “yucon” means really huge penis.

  • avatar
    Martin Schwoerer

    Check out the Toyota MR2 which was always good for a guffaw in France. Eh merde!

  • avatar
    jpcavanaugh

    Some additional nominations. I still wonder about the Honda Accord. Why would you name a car after an agreement? Just like the 59 Chevy of my youth, the only reason it seems normal is because we have been dulled by seeing so many of them.

    Another – What about the Nubira? Wasn’t it a Daiwoo? What the heck is a Nubira?

    Finally, what the heck is a Polara? I looked it up on google one time, and I’m not sure there is such a thing, other than a 60s Dodge.

  • avatar
    dcdriver

    BMW X6 – awkward to pronounce

    Lincoln Aviator

    Saturn Ion

    Ford Five Hundred – If you’re going to use a number, use the number, not the number spelled out. Can you imagine a BMW Three Hundred Thirty Five-i

  • avatar
    jpcavanaugh

    Oooh, Ooooh! I forgot! The, get ready for this, Studebaker Dictator! Top this!

  • avatar

    I’ve always thought “Vanagon” was a very stupid name. But not stupid enough to stop me from owning one.

    Isn’t that VW? Pretty much all their names should be on the list. Tiguan? Routan? Eos?

    John

  • avatar
    DearS

    Toyo is spanish for piece of junk. Ta is spanish for finished. So the piece of junk is finished.

    I heard a joke once, it goes something like…….When a Japanese engineer was done working on his project, he told his boss…El ToyoTa.

    Not true from a reliability perspective, but from an enthusiast’s point of view….?

  • avatar
    dcdriver

    I know it’s fictional, but the Wagon Queen Family Truckster from the movie “Vacation” always makes me laugh.

  • avatar
    rfdomingos

    Regarding Opel Ascona, actually Ascona doesn’t mean anything in Portuguese. What happened was that the “Ascona” letters where separate, so other people would remove the A and S, and leave you with a Opel Cona (Cunt)

    We also have the Nissan Pixo, which sounds close to Nissan Picha (Dick)

  • avatar
    afabbro

    For my money, the VW Touareg is the worst name of all time. If I can’t pronounce it, I’m not going to buy it.

  • avatar
    carlisimo

    I’m a Spanish native speaker; my dad’s family is from Valencia (Eastern Spain). “Moco” is indeed booger, and it’s kind of a kiddy word the same way as it is in English. I’m not familiar with “ascona” at all, but if it’s known in Northern Spain and Portugal then it might be Galician (what they speak in Northwestern Spain).

    “Nova” is an urban legend. It’d be exactly like reading the English word “notable” as “no table” – kind of a stretch, or a bad pun. “Nova” has the same astronomical meaning in Spanish as in English, so it’s a perfectly good word if you think dying stars are cool.

    “Pajero” could technically have that alleged meaning, but it’s a stretch too. “Una paja” is a session of self-pleasuring, so you could add the –ero suffix to turn it into a noun (“one who does a session of…”). But that’s like how American college students now add –ing and –ness to words that shouldn’t have them (e.g. “fooding” instead of “eating”). Americans do it often enough that it sounds pretty normal to me, but in Spain it wouldn’t sound natural at all. You can say “Pajero” with a straight face there.

    My favorite car name will always be the Honda That’s.

    *edit*

    DearS, what country are those words from? I’ve never heard “toyo” used as “junk” and “ta” as “finished.” Spanish does have a lot of bad jokes using words that sound like almost like Japanese names. Who was the fastest cyclist in the world? – Kasimoto (“almost motorcycle”). Who’s the Japanese Finance Minister? – Nikitonipongo (“I don’t put in, I don’t take out”).

  • avatar
    Verbal

    Mercury Mystique (“Mistake”)
    Ford Taurus X (“Tora Sex”)

  • avatar

    No celebrity ever drove a Celebrity.

    And what was Ford thinking by naming one of their windowless brown vans “The Amber Alert” ??!!

    I Can understand Subaru naming that car The Flying Vagina, though.

  • avatar
    Martin Albright

    If you think Japanese cars have bad names, you should see some of the names they bestowed on motorcycles, especially during the 80’s (although the bikes themselves were actually pretty cool.)

    Can you imagine riding up to your local biker bar sitting astride your Suzuki Savage? Or Intruder?

    I’ve owned both a Yamaha Virago (a virago is a loud, obnoxious woman) as well as a Maxim (which I think of as meaning a proverb or an aphorism.)

  • avatar
    izido

    11. Fiat PALIO, supposedly meaning male genitalia in certain southamerican slang.

    12. When the successor to Toyota MR came out, it was named Toyota MR2, except in France, where it was still just MR. Because MR DEUX sounds exactly like MERDEUX, which isn’t the best name for a car in France.

    Oh yes, and Ford KUGA means PLAGUE in my language…

  • avatar

    Where’s the Subaru BRAT?

  • avatar
    63CorvairSpyder

    Can you imagine an intersection accident between a Hummer, a Cherry and a LaPuta ?

  • avatar
    rcde

    Carlisimo,
    “You can say “Pajero” with a straight face there.”
    Oh no, sadly you can’t. The suffix -ero denotes someone who performs an activity (such in “granja” and “granjero”, which mean “farm” and “farmer” respectively).
    Trust me,I’ve been using it since I was a child.
    You’re totally right about “nova” though.
    EDIT,
    I’ve been using the word, I would like to clarify…

  • avatar
    bunkie

    No mention of the Mitsubishi Starion?

    The story I heard was that the Japanese suits wanted to call it the “Stallion” but that the guys on this side of the Pacific misheard them or didn’t want to contradict them (pick one).

  • avatar
    KalapanaBlack

    “Pajero” means bird in much of the Spanish speaking world… I don’t understand where this dirty connotation comes from.

    I always enjoyed the Honda CR-V EX. My parents have had two. CR-V EX = Cervix?

    Does anyone remember the Daihatsu Naked? It was a Kei car from the early 2000s. Of course, being a Daihatsu, it had fifty extra words tacked on to the end to denote trim levels and such.

    Another that alwasy caught my eye (in the vein of the Ford Aspire) was the Suzuki Esteem. Tiny, unreliable, basic transport. I suppose if you drive one you’d have to have lots of self esteem to make it through the day without laughing too hard at your own vehicle.

    GMC Jimmy. What? Why name a wannabe social climber SUV a nickname for James?

    The Suzuki Swift certainly wasn’t.

    Oldsmobile Bravada had a fairly short life (ten years).

    Kia Sephia. Dumb sounding, rhymes. More later.

  • avatar
    carlisimo

    rcde, I’ve only lived in one part of Spain, near Alicante, and “pajero” wasn’t part of the vocabulary there. Slang is a very local thing, so I don’t doubt that it’s a common word where you’re from.

  • avatar
    rcde

    carlisimo,
    “Slang is a very local thing”
    completely true, but that one is pretty known.
    Here’s a link from one of the best spanish car magazines writing about unfortunate car names:
    “http://www.motorpasion.com/otros/nombres-de-coches-desafortunados”
    It’s in spanish.

  • avatar
    ThorS

    So how about those Audi TTs…?

  • avatar
    Daniel J. Stern

    @Jeffers:
    The Oldsmobile Achieva should be on the list, it sounds like a sneeze.

    The Oldsmobile Achieva should be on the list not because it sounds like a sneeze, but because it instantly pissed away decades of brand loyalty so deep that Americans fell over themselves to snap up whatever pathetic shitbox GM spewed forth, as long as they slapped the “Cutlass” name on.

    @Argentla:
    There was also a Plymouth Valiant Swinger — it wasn’t just a Dart.

    No. There was never a Valiant Swinger. Plymouth’s equivalent of the Swinger was the Valiant Scamp.

  • avatar
    Blue387

    I agree with Samir, we need a list of cool names.

  • avatar
    rcde

    Blue387
    “I agree with Samir, we need a list of cool names.”
    Yes, we do!

  • avatar
    AndrewDederer

    This is a weak bit,even by the “top 10” standards.

    first
    Fitta, sorry guys WRONG.

    1. “Fitta” is how you spell “Fit” with Japanese phonemes (no terminal consonants, the double “t” is a glotal stop) very lazy.
    2. They did use Fit for the US (and Japanese and Asian) markets. Only Europe gets the “Jazz”(so the Swedes wouldn’t chuckle). BTW the German word for “Jazz” as I recall is roughly “bent (or maybe “slanted”) music”. That’s much more interesting.

    But they repeated the “Nova” joke (which has been discredited 8 ways to Wedsday) what could you expect?

    Oh, and “Cobalt” basically means the same as “gremlin” (demonic imp). The metal is quite poisonous, which is why German miners gave it that name. That’s also the origin of “Kobolds” (those wussy little lizards familiar to D&D nerds the world over).

    Here endeth the lesson.

  • avatar
    RedStapler

    What about the Nissan Armada?

    It either evokes thoughts of a

    A) A large boat

    How about the Honda Skiff, or the Toyota Schooner or Cadillac Man-o-War

    B)A disastrous defeat.

    How about the Porsche Kursk ( Elephant anyone?), Subaru Hiroshima, or Mercedes Stalingrad

  • avatar
    Mockingbird

    What a dull world this would be car if names are all alph-numerics!

    And what were they drinking when they came up with the moniker “Diahatsu Naked”?

    But trying too hard to be trendy seems to be a common trap. Like trying to appeal to the young masses with a car that has letters one short of “zits” – Fiesta ZTS.

  • avatar
    mcs

    Don’t forget the Cadillac ETC.

    Another name that bothers me is the Flex. That’s not a characteristic that I’d like in a vehicle body.

  • avatar

    @ Daniel J. Stern

    Ack, you’re absolutely right. Amended.

  • avatar
    Johnny Canada

    Stutz Bearcat. I can’t decide if it’s the coolest or the worst.

  • avatar
    Daniel J. Stern

    Is it just me, or has anyone else thought about how ludicrous the name Town Car is, given that hippopottamus’ length and girth relative to the (un)available parking in most towns of any substantial size? Sure, the dissonance is muted a bit by even-more-obese SUVs being used around town, but…

  • avatar

    Daniel J Stern,

    I think the origins of the name Town Car are back from when people in the US drove station wagons to the the train station and in the UK they drove estate cars out to their estates.

    The worst name ever is The Mohs Ostentatienne Opera Sedan.

  • avatar
    Brian Tiemann

    KalapanaBlack,

    “Pajero” means bird in much of the Spanish speaking world… I don’t understand where this dirty connotation comes from.

    That’s pájaro you’re thinking of. Different spelling, and (note the accent) different stressed syllable.

  • avatar
    MadHungarian

    The Malibu made a list that Car and Driver magazine compiled a few years ago, of “Boring Cars Named For Exotic Places.” Along with the Dodge Aspen, Chevy Corsica, Mercury Monterey, anyone remember the others?

    Then there is the 1957 Plymouth line, which is named after hotels — Plaza, Savoy, Belvedere. Given what vehicles usually pulled up in front of those hotels in ’57, these should have been model names for Checkers. At least back then hotels had glamorous sounding names. Today we would end up with the Econolodge, the Best Western and the Hilton Garden Inn.

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    Honda Wagovan

  • avatar
    Bimmer

    Always thought that they should’ve named SUV Intrepid, not a car.
    Chrysler GEM
    Ford (con)fusion
    PorScHe (IT) BOXter
    Porsche GAYman (no flaming, just saying)
    Chevy (ad)venture
    Chevy (A)LUMINA
    Suzuki (self)esteem
    BMW (se)X 3,5,6. Same with Ford SUV’s (S)EXplorer, (S)EXpedition, etc.
    Audi T(I)TS
    Daewoo F(k)ALOS
    KIA Rio (aka Diarrhea)
    Can’t even pronounce new BMW names: BMW Xdrive 35i, BMW sDrive 30i. Plain stupid.

  • avatar
    rudiger

    Scamp is worse than Swinger. Hell, Swinger was lyrical:

    “Meet the Swinger, Polaroid Swinger.
    It’s more than a camera, it’s almost alive.
    It’s only 19 dollars, and 95.”

    And if we’re including fictional cars, the 6000SUX from Robocop is right up there with the Wagon Queen Family Truckster.

    I was always hoping for an Acura Integra Masturba, too.

  • avatar

    Lokkii :
    And then of course, back in the mid 60’s when I was learning to read, there was the day when we drove up behind a big new Pontiac Grand Prix.
    I was proud to read the name aloud. Apparently I wasn’t familiar with French at that age, because I pronounced the the “X”.
    My father laughed so hard he almost drove off the road, and didn’t stop until my mother hit him :-0

    I made the same mistake when I was about 9 or 10. My mother was obviously embarrassed, although I didn’t know why, and she then explained to me how it was French for prize.

  • avatar

    I’m surprised no-one has mentioned the story about how the Nissan sexes got their name. That the head of Nissan North America came down to the Port to see the first arrival of the new Nissan sports cars, and was appalled to see the moniker, Fair Lady, and ordered that they substitute the factory alpha numeric.

  • avatar
    d002

    Hyundai Trajet (as in ‘tragedy’).

    Hyundai wanted everyone to call it the ‘tra-jay’.

    Hyundai Terracan.

    Hyundai wanted everyone to call that the ‘terra – karn’.

    Both the Ford Zephyr and the Holden Camira (Pontiac Sunbird J-body) are named after soft, hot winds…

    As for motorcycles, how about a Honda Chappy ? Which is as daft as it sounds (its a monkey bike – you know with tiny fat wheels and ape hangers.)

  • avatar
    educatordan

    The Malibu made a list that Car and Driver magazine compiled a few years ago, of “Boring Cars Named For Exotic Places.” Along with the Dodge Aspen, Chevy Corsica, Mercury Monterey, anyone remember the others?

    I remember that the Ford Granada and the Edsel Bermuda were on there. (Bermuda was the Edsel wagon with two tone paint AND woodgrain sides!) BTW Subaru haters, the Edsel grill is the original “flying vagina.”

  • avatar
    Flarn

    Nothing wrong with “Bearcat,” and nothing wrong with “Town Car.”

    It’s “Merkur XR4Ti” that is the real abortion.

    Flarn

  • avatar
    obbop

    Doth thou recalleth the old name the Japanese car manufacturer joke?

    Asked the Germans for a snazzy name and needed it within a day.

    German responded, “Achhhhh, they need a name dat soon?”

    lame, yes.

    Tip your waitress

  • avatar
    venator

    Re Town Car, originally it denoted a body style used by coachbuilders, also known as Sedan de Ville, with an open drivers compartment, and an enclosed rear compartment.
    Here are some ideas for bad car names: Based on the demographic of their buyers, I can see a car magazine doing a comparison test between a Chevrolet Camaro Cialis and a Ford Mustang Viagra. How about an estate car version of the Mustang? With retro names being trendy these days, it could be called the Ford Mustang Ranch Wagon.

  • avatar
    Autobraz

    In portuguese:

    Ford Pinto = Ford Dick, but it was not sold here in Brazil.

    Kia Besta = Kia Stupid, and it indeed was sold with this name here! The good thing is that the advertisement for it was very clever and used the bad name in its favour.

  • avatar
    Mike66Chryslers

    How about an entire brand that’s badly named? Every time I see a KIA badge I can’t help but think of the acronym “Killed In Action”.

  • avatar
    Carzzi

    The Nissan Cherry donated its jewel of a 1.2 litre 52hp carburetted engine to the Indian built FIAT 124 clone, the 118NE. That car weighed all of 1700lbs and felt like quite the rocket on scabrous Bangalore tarmac. And what a cherry exhaust note.

  • avatar
    Kristjan Ambroz

    There is an urban legend / rumour that a pink only with white leather VW Golf I convertible existed in Germany, called the ‘Fancy boy’. The UK importer downright refused them for the English market (understandably). Is there any thruth to it, Bertel? :)

  • avatar
    joeaverage

    Fiat was selling a series of Fiat Pandas in the early 90s. They were trying to inject a few English words to be cool so while I was stationed in Italy we saw alot of “Fiat Panda T-shirts”. It wasn’t that the name was bad but the the Panda was a CAR. What did the T-shirt label have to do with? I think there was another called the Fiat Panda Soccer as well. Hub caps looked like soccer balls. On a car that cheap and basic (not bad – just basic) the options were few and far between. A few options loaded into the car might either overload the two cylinder aircooled engine or double the price… VBG!

    Having a hard time researching the models though b/c all the search engine returns is links to clothing with Fiat logos on them…

    Perhaps the “T-Shirt” Panda was sort of like the VW Beetle Jeans model from the early 70s – with a denim interior. Then there are “Diesel Jeans” which made no sense to me there and even less sense when I see them sold here where most of us speak English (USA). What does diesel and jeans have to do with one another? I guess it is memorable though…

  • avatar
    jerseydevil

    That commercial was GREAT, even the car looked good (seriously). Amazing what TV can do. I was right with it until the babe at the end with the bizzare ’70’s do, i thought she was the most dated part of the presentation!

    As for car names, I always chuckle on all the various ways SEX can be spelled!

    My personal fav is Subaru SVX.

    There’s STS SX, lots more.

    Chevy Nova means NoGo in spanish, i hear.

    Ford Perspire (aspire)

    Fun stuff, thanks!

  • avatar
    Kurt.

    SNOPES is wrong…the NOVA story is true. The sold plenty of Novas is Southern California…

  • avatar
    Brian Tiemann

    Who said anything about Southern California? Of course the Nova was marketed there.

    It wasn’t marketed as such in South America, if that’s what you mean…

    It’s becoming clear how so many of these legends become so persistent.

  • avatar
    joeaverage

    Saw a Merkur this morn here in small town TN! You know I always liked the car but I always wonder when I see such a BAD marketing flub like the X4RTi moniker – don’t a bunch of people review a decision like this before it gets made? Why not just call it a Ford Sierra like they did in Europe?

    Surely they weren’t trying to keep from selling a bunch of these imported Fords? The Astra is another example. Saw only my second Astra in a year over the weekend! SHARP car. They didn’t (don’t) advertise the damn car around here. How do they expect to sell them? Isn’t that the point? How is any average on-car-mag consumer going to know it exists???

    Just seems to me that a car company ought to sell as many of a product as they can whether it be large or small or Euro-style or domestic.

    As for the Swinger at the beginning of the article – it actually looks good – dated but good. My grandmother had one when I was a kid. Funny how I see cars in the ads – all clean and intact and with all the trim – that look good despite their age. When I see the same car running around minus the trim, with patches of this color and that, mismatched parts, and no evidence of ever being loved – I wonder how anyone would have bought a car like that when it was new. The distressed and neglected car actually poisons the style or design for me until I see a vintage ad like that. The 80s poisoned Camaros for me that way. Only now getting over it… VBG!

    I have the same problem with Beetles. See a rotted out rusty claptrap of a Beetle rolling down the road and I can’t imagine why anyone would want one. Then I see a well restored Beetle and I can’t wait to find some time and money to work on mine that sits patiently in dry storage.

    FWIW I never got the explanation behind my mispronunciation of “Grand Prix” from my parents. Too buttoned up to explain I suppose. Lucky for me I don’t remember embarrasing myself with the mispronunciation of “Prix” in front of anyone but them though I know I was making that mistake. Wasn’t until High School that my “education” in raunch that I understood my mistake years before.

  • avatar
    Mark MacInnis

    The Merkur XR4Ti was a proliferation of the Mercury’s “XR” trim level designation for their sporty cars….XR7 for the Cougar, XR3 for the Lynx(!)…the Merkur fit in between both, size wise. The T stood for “Turbo”, and i, just as it is used by BMW, meant “injected”…

    Just like Chevy de-valued the “Z” nomenclature by having a Z-24 Cavalier…..

    RE: funny names for cars out of Japan….they also have a soft-drink called, I am not making this up, Pokari “Sweat.” Doesn’t sound like something I’d like to knock back on a hot day….

    OMT…..wasn’t there once a car called the “Whizzer”…..

  • avatar
    Kristjan Ambroz

    You are absolutely right about Pocari Sweat. The drink is Korean, though. There are other funny named ones, like God canned coffee (God Rainbow Mountain being an option), Black Boss canned coffee, Depresso (well, you can kind of piece that one together), as well as Calpis (Japan) and Coolpiss (Korea, comes in Kimchi flavour as well (fermetned cabbage), both of which are milk based sparkling drinks, served either cold or hot (can / PET bottle). :)

    IIRC there was also a version of the Toyota Mark II called the ‘Exciting Edition’.

  • avatar
    Banger

    Martin Albright:

    If you think Japanese cars have bad names, you should see some of the names they bestowed on motorcycles, especially during the 80’s (although the bikes themselves were actually pretty cool.)

    Can you imagine riding up to your local biker bar sitting astride your Suzuki Savage? Or Intruder?

    I had a Savage for my first bike. Excellent machine to learn on because you didn’t “outgrow” it right away. It was juuuust powerful enough to be rideable on the superslab. That is, if you could put up with being blown around by every vehicle on the road– it only weighed about 350 lbs soaking wet. (And mine weighed even less once I chopped off all the extraneous chrome and huge factory turn signals in favor of a sleeker, rat rod look!)

    But yes, the name was pretty silly. Most of us in the Savage community preferred to call the bike by its given model designation: LS650.

    My current bike– a BMW K75– doesn’t have such a laughable name, so the community came up with one for it: The Flying Brick, due to the shape of its engine.

  • avatar
    dolorean23

    Perhaps the “T-Shirt” Panda was sort of like the VW Beetle Jeans model from the early 70s – with a denim interior.

    The American Motor Company (AMC) in the late 70’s sold their Gremlin with genuine Levi’s Jeans interior. Complete with butt pockets on the back of the bucket seats.

  • avatar
    spyspeed

    Disagree with #8 Charade. This is cute for the right car, and actually the Daihatsus were OK cars.

    I have to nominate Daewoo Leganza and second Honda Civic Wagovan, and no list is complete without AMC Matador.

  • avatar
    MadHungarian

    Re Town Car, originally it denoted a body style used by coachbuilders, also known as Sedan de Ville, with an open drivers compartment, and an enclosed rear compartment

    Indeed, I always thought it odd that the Caddy and Lincoln sedans had EXACTLY THE SAME NAME, and nobody seemed bothered by it.

  • avatar
    bomber991

    I remember back in highschool, one of my friends was saying it’s pretty funny if you add the word “Anal” infront of ford car model names:

    Anal Focus
    Anal Fusion
    Anal Taurus <– ok maybe that one doesn’t work
    Anal Mustang
    Anal Edge
    Anal Flex
    Anal Escape
    Anal Explorer
    Anal Expedition
    Anal Ranger

    Of course, when I was in highschool, the Ford Excursion existed.

  • avatar
    pacificpom2

    Nissan Cedric, released into a homophobic 1960’s Australia.

  • avatar
    puppyknuckles

    Dodge Swinger on the worst car names list? That’s one of the best! Maybe just in hindsight, though. I had a ’71.

    bomber991 : All that and you left off “Anal Probe”?

  • avatar
    Tosh

    Another vote for “Ascender”

    And if you pronounce XR4Ti as ‘Exerati’ it rolls off the tongue with some flair.

  • avatar
    osnofla

    Mazda Axela could also be on the list since it sounds like “axila,” Spanish for armpit.
    Also:
    @bomber:
    if you put anal in front a lot of other words the same is true.
    example: anal bomber

  • avatar
    Lemmiwinks

    Mom really loves her new Mazda Whore.

    I just can’t stop laughing.

  • avatar
    eddie.willers

    Well, I registered just now to add the last word to this post.

    British author Martin Amis, in his novel “Money”, lists the following fictional cars:

    Tomahawk
    Fiasco
    Autocrat
    Culprit
    666
    Mistral
    Alibi
    Boomerang
    Farrago
    Hyena
    Acapulco
    Torpedo
    Jefferson
    Iago
    Jefferson Success
    Tigerfish
    Mañana

    Beat those!

  • avatar
    Martin Schwoerer

    Hooray, another Martin Amis reader at TTAC! Welcome, my friend.

  • avatar
    ThorS

    I can’t resist:

    The Lancia Hyena are one of the coolest cars ever. Most TTAC-readers are probably familiar with the legendary ‘Grale – the Lancia (Delta) Integrale. Now, the Hyena was a limited production from Zagato, based on the ‘Grale. It’s a very sought after and desired classic today, commanding 5-figure prices.

    The Maserati Boomerang was a very stylish, one-off concept-car from Giugiaro, presentet some time in the 1970’s. I remember ’cause I had one of those as a Matchbox modelcar as a kid.

  • avatar
    gzuckier

    As it happens, I look up today to see a large grill racing towards my drivers side door as an idiot runs the light. Obviously he did stop in time or I wouldn’t be posting. But obligate black humorist that I am, it struck me as ironic that the offending vehicle was a Dodge Ram.

    And isn’t it asking for trouble to name a vehicle a Blazer?

    On another note, after the Ford Explorer and the Lincoln Navigator, I was half expecting them to bring out the Mercury Mozilla.

  • avatar
    minifan

    i remember reading commentary in some car mag about GM possibly coming up with an unfortunate collection of chrome letters across the trunk of an upcoming cadillac model.
    the author mused: considering the median age of Cadillac drivers, what impressions would be made regarding the driver of a car labeled CATERA_CTS ?

  • avatar
    PeteMoran

    95 posts and no mention of the majestic Canyonero? Not to mention the absolutely spot on observations of SUVs owners in the episode…..

  • avatar
    Wheatridger

    The worst acronym in current use has to be TRD, for Toyota Racing Division. My mind keeps wanting to add the one missing letter. Imagine the ad line: “TRD– all it needs is you in it.”

  • avatar
    Daniel J. Stern

    It just strikes me as a bad idea to give cars names that include the (sound of the) word “ass”. Aspen, Astre (Ash tray?), Astro, Astra, Aspire…I suppose “Astra” gets a pass, because almost all of them were sold into markets where if English is spoken, the relevant word is “arse”, and “ass” is used — when it’s used at all — to refer to a perissodactyl mammal, ancestor of the donkey, smaller than a horse and having long ears. Oh, wait, so maybe “Astra” doesn’t get a p(ass).

    @MadHungarian:
    the 1957 Plymouth line, which is named after hotels — Plaza, Savoy, Belvedere

    Actually, Plymouth’s hotel names came earlier than that. Savoy and Belvedere were introduced for 1951, and Plaza for 1954. Belvedere lasted through ’70, Plaza through ’58, and Savoy through ’65. I’ve stayed in a lot of hotels, but I have yet to encounter the Hotel Fury.

    @Minifan:
    what impressions would be made regarding the driver of a car labeled CATERA_CTS?

    Er…quite.

    @pacificpom2:
    Nissan Cedric, released into a homophobic 1960’s Australia.

    Eh? I must be missing something about “Cedric”. Splain?

    @Paul Niedermeyer:
    Honda Wagovan

    Is it any less clunky (ahem) than VW Vanagon?

  • avatar
    Majed Al Nasser

    Well there are plenty of names I never heard of, either that I it wasn’t intended for the Middle East or that it was built before I was born….

    Any ways we do have some intresting car names back here like the NISSAN SUNNY (and there is nothing sunny about it),

    The Chevy Avelanch (hope i spelled that properly) we are in the middle of the desert….. it’s impossible to have snow so how about an avelanch.

    The Nissan Tiida… guess they mis-spelled the word TA-DA as in surprise… and still there is nothing surprising about it.

    Daihatsu have this compact car they call… Picanto…. wait was that Picachu ?!??!?

    Ooh and there was a Toyota 4×4 called the 4runner… guess it came from Road Runner (the cartoon) beep beep…

    And there is the Chrysler if am not mistaken which is called the Crossfire… hey we are not in war over here, it’s just Iraq that is waaaaay over there.

    How about the Toyota Aurion… or Oreao..!!

    can’t recall if there are any other “exotic” car names here ….

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