5 Stupid Classic Car Names
Cars with bad, bad names.
You have to put yourself in the right frame of mind.
I recently wrote a hub on "5 Really Stupid Car Names" where I talked only about current production models. I limited myself to that for a few reasons, chief among them was to point out that car makers still pick strange names.
When dealing with cars that are 25 years old or older, you actually have to think about the past. Rocket 88 during the Space Race was a great name. Pre-Space Race it still implied fast car. Likewise Hudson's Terraplane nameplate surely brought to mind an Aeroplane, for the earth. While some name's meanings change with time--Cougar being a great example--we want to think about what Cougar meant, back in 1968: it was a sleek cat. It was the Mercury cousin to the Mustang, which was a wild horse.
Here are some names that failed for one reason or another, whether or not the car itself was a failure. Also, think about cars that were failures, but had great names. I may pick up that topic one of these days. On to the list:
1) Tudor and Fordor. Someone at Ford had a sense of humor. A Tudor had two doors and a Fordor had four. The names lasted for decades. While the Tudor did have some royal connotations and is an acceptable car name, pun aside, Fordor is horrible. I'm sure your neighbor with a Bel Air let you know that Fordor's time had come by '54.
2) Gremlin. AMC's choice of Gremlin is really absurd. To the generation that fought in WWII, they might as well have called it the FUBAR. To the vets, who were probably fronting the cash to their kids for the downpayments in the 70s, Gremlins were little gnomes who caused mechanical problems. In today's shorthand, the AMC POS would be appropriate.
3) Pinto. Ford's "replacement" when they retired the Mustang during the 1970s was the Pinto. It's obvious where they were headed, a Pinto is a spotted or piebald horse. Mustang...Pinto...I see where you're going, Mr. Ford. Unfortunately, most of us probably just associated the name with the Pinto Bean. The Ford Mottled Legume just doesn't inspire confidence. Burning to the ground when hit from behind didn't help their popularity. The ability to open the doors from the inside by pulling on the door handle despite the door being locked nearly cost me my life, too, when I was tiny.
4) Fury and Tempest. Equally culpable, Plymouth and Pontiac brought out violent sounding cars. "Sound and fury, signifying nothing" and "tempest in a teacup" are phrases that spring almost immediately to mind. Since the first is from MacBeth and the second was Lord North's reaction to the American Colonist's rejection of the tax on tea, it's easy to determine these connotations aren't new. Violent storms or out of proportion reactions to situations don't really make great car names. If they did, I'm sure the Ford Riot would be out next year.
5) Catalina. I actually have no idea what Pontiac was thinking about with Catalina. All that comes to mind is the ketchup-based salad dressing and an island. Neither of which imply anything car, transportation, or speed related. Puns about playing "catch up" in your Catalina would have sprung easily to my lips. In fact, one of my High School friends was always going to restore one of these. Maybe I should look him up and make fun of him if he did.
Another of my friends is currently hopping up and down, saying, "You didn't pick on Nova again! 'No Va' means 'No Go' in Spanish." Yes, I know, but for an American car sold in America during the height of the Space Program, it's a great name. It's the failure of Chevy to do some basic homework before sending it abroad that's the problem.
Other cars that are near misses are Plymouth's Dart Swinger, Dodge Aspen, and Pontiac Grand Prix. While Swingers were something quite different by the 70s, when the car was introduced in the 60s, it just meant "someone who indulges in youthful fads." Right now it would be the Dart Hipster. Aspen...well, anything tree related just doesn't sound very mobile to me. And the Grand Prix? Well, my grandfather always called them, "Grand Pricks." I'm sure he wasn't the only one.