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The Name Game

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

The DriveWrite Archives

The Name Game

Geoff Maxted
October 2, 2013

1970 Dodge Dart Plymouth Barracuda
Americans are christened with really cool names. Amongst the car guys, past and present, there’s Boyd Coddington, Wayne Carini, Chip Foose, Ryan Friedlinghaus and the legendary Carroll Shelby to name but a few. Why aren’t our names like that? Even the great John Wayne changed his name from Morrison so as not to reveal his early life as a British grocer.

The same goes for their cars. The Ford Mustang is one of America’s most iconic cars. Say it out loud - Muss-stang! It conjures up images of the great sweeping plains of the West where rugged men in lumberjack shirts - with the sleeves rolled up over their biceps - neck Bud from the bottles. (Top tip: If they are drinking Piña Coladas then you are probably in the wrong bar). Would it have been the same if Ford had called it The Pony?

Then of course there’s the Dodge Charger, the Challenger, the Plymouth Barracuda (below), the Corvette Stingray and the Pontiac GTO and loads more, often with really butch names that belie their automotive incompetence.

And what do we get here? The Fusion. The Picanto. It is names like this that make the British and European car market so devoid of any real excitement. Even when manufacturers decide to get trendy there is no real flair. The Juke. The Roomster. These names don’t really give a sense of the open road or driving as it should be. They are just names. Even the soft Yank tanks have good names like Eldorado or Lacrosse. To be fair, there are also mistakes. Ford made a car called the Probe. It wasn’t very good and if nothing else brought to mind a variety of medical procedures. Plans to use the names ‘Thrust’ and ‘Lunge’ were subsequently withdrawn.

Manufacturers seem to go out of their way to find safe names like the made up ‘Mondeo’, which one assumes is meant to suggest a world car vision but very little else. Unfortunately, the new Mondeo will, in America, be known as the Fusion which just goes to show that you can take a car out of Britain but you can’t take the Britain out the car.

It all begs the question as to whether or not names sell cars. These days new car buyers are becoming increasingly sophisticated and they will look at factors such as economy, luxury and accessories before they worry too much about what it is called. They may be concerned with the maker’s badge - which explains the otherwise terminally dull number sequence on BMWs - before they are concerned about the name, but there is a limit.

Chrysler/Dodge once offered a version of their ongoing Dart model which they called The Swinger (above). It would be a brave man who would consider driving this car today. That is unless he wanted to make some new friends.

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