Have you driven a bore lately?

Jebediah Wilbury riffs on some really awful car names, starting with Ford’s Edsel, which wound up with the name of Henry Ford’s firstborn after thousands of possibilities, including a whole sheaf by poet Marianne Moore, were rejected. (Although I think “Mongoose Civique” would have been kinda neat.)

“Edsel” never bothered me all that much, perhaps because there weren’t too many of them around: the marque was unceremoniously killed off early in its third year. Some badges, though, perplex me to this day:

  • Chevrolet Celebrity (1982-90): Chevrolet has always positioned itself as the car for Everyman, so tagging a Chevy as “Celebrity,” the very antithesis of what Chevy stood for, was counterproductive at best. At worst, they actually offered a trim line called “Eurosport,” with toned-down brightwork but no actual performance improvements.
  • AMC Pacer (1975-80): Not such a bad name, really, but “Pacer” had baggage: it was the name for one of the lower Edsel trim lines.
  • AMC Matador (1971-78): There was great amusement during the early days of the Chevrolet Nova and how its name meant “it does not go” in Spanish, though most of the stories turned out to be apocryphal. But “Matador” means “killer” — and not just of bulls.
  • Pontiac 6000 (1981-91): A corporate cousin to the Celebrity, this Poncho was mostly innocuous, unless you bought the uprated LE version, which carried “6000LE” badges on each front fender, leading smartaleck children to yell, “Mom! Look! It’s a GOOOO-LEE!” The performance-oriented STE, at least, didn’t have to put up with this.
  • Hyundai Excel (1985-94): This first Korean car on American soil did not actually excel at anything, so I’m assuming they named it after a spreadsheet.
  • Ford Flex (2009-?): The last thing I want in an automobile is the suggestion of bendy sheetmetal.

Dishonorable mention: Kia cee’d (2007-?), sold only in Europe, because (1) it looks silly and (2) Hyundai sells a version as the i30, which bugs Nissanophiles.

On the other hand, a source of delight was Toyota’s Cressida (1973-92), so far the only car I know of named for a woman of variable virtue. (No Boxster jokes, please.)


  1. triticale »

    5 September 2007 · 8:28 pm

    I had a Plymouth 600 at the same time a coworker had a Pontiac 6000. No way was his car ten times better than mine.

    My all time favorite model name is the Leganza, which sounds like a Jackie Gleason dirty word.

  2. michele »

    5 September 2007 · 8:32 pm

    I saw a Kompressor the other day. That name belongs on a monster truck, not a Mercedes.

    Also, the Super Bee. Awesome car. Not so awesome name.

  3. McGehee »

    5 September 2007 · 11:05 pm

    Well, let’s see. I’ve owned a Vega, a Dart, an Escort (talk about “pimp my ride”) and a couple of Broncos. Also a Cherokee (serves ’em right for siding with the Confederacy, no?).

  4. Heather »

    5 September 2007 · 11:18 pm

    My sister had a Gremlin, ugly car, squeaked a lot, and was very slow. I still like to remind her of the Gremlin. It was kind of a fun car because she hated it so much, and we laughed at her in it, she was a bit of a priss back then.

    In Japan we had a Nissan Prairie, sort of a cross between station wagon, a mini van, and a wanna be suv. Fun car, slow as all get out though, but it didn’t matter because the speed limits were so darn low anyway. Some of their cars had some really odd names, but of course, I can’t think of any right now.

  5. gail »

    6 September 2007 · 8:18 am

    I think matador is a cognate of murderer.

  6. Nate »

    6 September 2007 · 11:42 am

    I find Escort to be about the funniest name imaginable for a car, for reasons that I’m sure will be obvious. Personally, I’m holding out for the 2009 Honda Prostitute.

  7. GradualDazzle »

    6 September 2007 · 7:09 pm

    The Toyota mini-van called the Previa always grossed me out because the only other place I’d ever seen that Latin term was after “Placenta”. GAG. I was glad they scrapped it and started over with the Sienna. I’m not sure how great it is to name your car after an earth pigment, but I guess it’s better than a pregnancy disorder.

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