The model names of the cars produced by various marques has always been highly important. It’s easy to imagine that the top floor at most car companies would have been filled by vivid discussions every time the name of a new model was to be decided upon. Of course, other car companies simply stick to numerical model names, which would no doubt make that exercise a lot easier – but also more dull.
When it comes to name giving their cars, the Americans have never been afraid of setting the bar high. The clever chaps in marketing quickly established that the right name with a nice ring to it, would always boost sales. Names like Corvette, Thunderbird and Mustang all played on old native American values and encouraged a patriotic purchase. The Mustang name was borrowed from the wild horse roaming their continent, but of course also shared the name with America’s famous Second World War fighter aircraft, the P51 Mustang. Rarely did the cars actually live up to what their names hinted at, but never mind, potent model names where the flavour of the month. It wasn’t until the late sixties that the same potency was to be found in the engine bay, and the model names followed suit: Charger, Challenger and Firebird were all hard-hitting powertrips which helped define a whole generation of fast cars – the Muscle Car.
Unsurprisingly, in Europe a more restrained approach was taken when dreaming up new model names. Numerical names were preferred by many companies. I’m not sure whether this was down to a lack of imagination, or whether the buying public actually preferred this engineer-like approach, but it could very well be the later. Especially the Germans subscribed to numerics – with the exception of Opel and Ford, which were of course American owned and thus stuck to tradition. VW were next to join the trend with their Golf model, and subsequently continued the use of names of major winds around the globe as their model names. This lead to several great names, and especially Scirocco seems particularly fitting for a sporty coupé.
Name-giving was a responsibility which the Swedes also left to the engineers, and so the numeric system was their favoured too. However, one model received a real name: Amazon. A fantastic name for the elegantly shaped saloon, which would have no doubt had an effect on those sales numbers as well.
British Jensen absolutely nailed it when it came to choosing the perfect name for their Grand Continental Tourer – the Interceptor. A name which seems highly suited for the big coupé’s form and function, and which surely goes down in history as one of the automotive world’s best model names. In stark contrast, I don’t feel that Maserati ever had much luck with their names. While their cars are truly exquisite, they were trying a bit too hard to appeal to the American market with their model names.
Right from the word go, Lamborghini went for dramatic names often with double entendre. Most had their roots in the mythological world of bullfighting. This strategy lead to several spectacular model names, but surely Diablo must be another one of the very best ever. The diabolical name is a perfect match for the extreme wedge of a supercar. The moment you place yourself behind the wheel, you sell your soul to the Prince of Darkness – naturally with sinful pleasures in return. That the Diablo ended up being the last great and true Lamborghini only amplifies the names magic. It’s as if the company management sold their soul at the same occasion, leaving the model name with a bittersweet aftertaste of irony.
When it came to naming prototypes, the companies really let loose! There was simply more room to be inventive. Sadly, only very few prototype names made their way onto production cars. Just imagine if they had given us a Maserati Boomerang, Oldsmobile Futuramic or an Alfa Romeo Carabo?
Lancia tended to stick to either the Greek alphabet or lyrical names which suited their car’s graceful technical abilities and engineering. However, just as the seventies kicked off they changed horses and gifted their new rally weapon with a strong and powerful name: Stratos.
Stratos is my personal favourite amongst automotive model names. The name alone manages to elevate the already exceptional vehicle to another sphere while maintaining its air of mythology. Well Done, Lancia.
Which model name is your favourite? Do you perhaps prefer numerics? Should all proper cars have propernames? Or are you indifferent?