Editorial: "Ten Most Unfortunate Car Names"

Robert Farago
by Robert Farago
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.
Robert Farago
Robert Farago

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  • Anonymous Anonymous on Jul 21, 2009

    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?

  • Majed Al Nasser Majed Al Nasser on Jul 30, 2009

    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 4x4 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 ....

  • W Conrad Sedans have been fine for me, but I were getting a new car, it would be an SUV. Not only because less sedans available, but I can't see around them in my sedan!
  • Slavuta More hatchbacks
  • ED I don't know what GM is thinking.I have a 2020 one nice vehicle.Got rid of Camaro and was going to buy one.Probably won't buy another GM product.Get rid of all the head honchos at GM.This company is a bunch of cheapskates building junk that no one wants.
  • Lostjr Sedans have been made less practical, with low rooflines and steeply raked A pillars. It makes them harder to get in and out of. Probably harder to put a kid in a child seat. Sedans used to be more family oriented.
  • Bob Funny how Oldsmobile was offering a GPS system to help if you were lost, yet GM as a company was very lost. Not really sure that they are not still lost. They make hideous looking trucks, Cadillac is a crappy Chevy pretending to be fancy. To be honest, I would never step in a GM show room now or ever. Boring, cheap ugly and bad resale why bother. I get enough of GM when i rent on trips from airports. I have to say, does anybody at GM ever drive what everyone else drives? Do they ever then look at what crap they put out in style fit and finish? Come on, for real, do they? Cadillac updated slogan should be " sub standard of the 3rd world", or " almost as good as Tata motors". Enough said.