Saturday, May 21, 2011

Bad Names for Cars

I'm always amazed at some of the horrible names car companies think up for their cars. Whether it's something lost in translation or the automotive equivalent of bad fashion, some names are just bad and some, like Edsel, are infamously integrated into pop lexicon.

Here are some of my favorites:

Ford Aspire: Clearly a car for people who aspire to own something better.

Suzuki Esteem: The only drivers are ones who lack self esteem.

AMC Gremlin: I'm guessing hobgoblin, gargoyle, and leprechaun were taken? Were the AMC executives dropping acid?

Dodge Dart Swinger: Another name from the early 1970s. I'm sure Ralph Furley from Three's Company had one.

Ford Probe: Intended to be a Mustang replacement, the Probe was actually a decent car with a bad name. Imagine explaining to your insurance company that you were rear ended by a Probe.

Isuzu Hombre: I thought the Hombre was the guy who did those Isuzu commercials years ago, but it was a Jeep type vehicle. They might as well have called it the Isuzu Dude.

Chevy Citation: Nova deserves an honorable mention because it means "no go" in Spanish, and Celebrity was infamous, but Citation is bad in any language. GM should have received a citation for building these cars.

Oldsmobile Achieva: Not sure what it achieved, but it was an under-Achieva that helped lead Oldsmobile to its demise.

Geo Metro: Driving one was kind of like taking the Metro or other public transportation. Cheap plastic interior, noisy, incessant droning from a three-cylinder engine. Suzuki called their version the Swift, which it might have been compared to the Metro because it had an extra cylinder. But Swift was relative. The only way this car was swift is if your other mode of transportation was walking.

Daihatsu Charade: Easily my favorite, hands down. The only way it could be better is if they called it the Daihatsu Masquerade or Punchline. Daihatsu lasted about four years in the US, which is no wonder because they were merely acting out a charade as a car company.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Mustang Cool

Mustangs are cool. They are one of the most legendary and enduring GT cars of all time. Yes, there were the neutered Mustang IIs of the mid-seventies and there's always been something a little blue collar about them. They don't have the breeding or sophistication of a Jaguar, Ferrari, or James Bond's Aston Martin. And you won't see one parked on the lawn at Pebble Beach next to a Talbot-Lago or some other over-restored rare bird.

But then Mustang owners wouldn't park their cars on the lawn. They'd farm it like a NASCAR driver on the infield at Daytona.

Cool. There's a reason why Memphis Raines' unicorn was a modified 1967 Shelby GT500 named Eleanor. Even James Bond drove one in "Diamonds Are Forever". But to me, the coolest one was the 1968 Highland Park Green example Steve McQueen drove in "Bullitt".

The original Bullitt Mustang was a basic, stripped down street machine with Torq-Thrust wheels. It prowled the streets of San Francisco with a 390 cubic inch V8 soundtrack. There were two cars built for the movie. One was supposedly destroyed during filming and the other is hidden away somewhere by a reclusive owner who makes JD Salinger look like Donald Trump.

In 2001 and again in 2008/2009, Ford produced a limited edition Bullitt Mustang to commemorate the movie. The new Bullitt Mustangs share the stripped down look of the original. They aren't the fastest or the best handling, or even the most collectible version. They don't have the 390 cubic inch engine or the legendary 5.0, but they are by far my favorite.

But no matter what version, the Mustang is cool. It has that It factor. Like a pair of Ray-Bans, jeans or Classic Rock there is an honest, American quality to them. Unlike some of the more expensive and pretentious GT cars, you don't have to put on airs to own one. You just drive it.