What’s in a (car) name?

So Vauxhall (and Opel) is to name its new Mini-rival the Adam. A fine name to give a baby boy, but a car? No.

There’s a myth that cars always used to have manly and aggressive names and, indeed, some did. There was the Spitfire, Mustang, Stingray, Diablo, Viper, Cobra, Stratos, Testarossa and Thunderbird. You get the picture – names that stir the soul and get you excited about cars and driving.

However, look back over the years and there have always been rubbish names. The British car industry went through a phase of naming cars after British places, so we had the Oxford, Cambridge, Hereford and Westminster. The Ford Cortina and Capri , meanwhile, were named after places in Italy. And don’t get me started on Princess, Ambassador, Escort and Marina.

Still, even the worst of those pales into insignificance next to Adam.

One way around naming problems is to give a car a number, and this is a tradition that dates right back to the early days of motoring, with cars like the Austin 7. Of course, Porsche also adopted this no-nonsense way of labelling its cars, starting with the 356, then the 911, 924, 944, 928, and so on.

The numbers ‘911’ have become a motoring icon. However, for many years the Porsche 911 was badged ‘Carrera’ and it’s only with the introduction of the latest version, the 991, that buyers again have the choice of having their cars badged ‘911’ again.

Although numbers are straightforward and international (although 911 did cause a bit of a problem in the USA after the 11th September attacks), Porsche has moved towards names for its more recent models, no doubt because the marketing department believes that is the way forward. The problem, though is that car names have to work in all markets (be pronounceable and not mean anything derogatory in any language) and many of the obvious names have already been used or registered. The solution that Porsche (and other manufacturers) have to resort to, then, is making words up. Hence we had the Boxster (a combination of boxer engine and roadster) which seemed clumsy at first but we’ve got used to it. Thankfully, Porsche managed to use real words for the Cayenne (a great name, as it’s a hot pepper) and Cayman (a swift little crocodile), but had to resort to a made up name for the Panamera.

Apparently, the Adam is named after Adam Opel who founded the company. Let’s hope Porsche doesn’t jump on the bandwagon and name its next car the Ferdinand…

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