What’s In A Name?

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Ever since I bought a satirical book of illustrations  by Bruce McCall – ” Zany Afternoons ” – some 30 years ago I have had his parody of the 1940’s and 50’s American motor car advertisements stuck in my mind. He showed us an advertising campaign for the Bulgemobile models that include the Fireblast, Flashbolt, and Firewood. Add the Scumliner for the economy model…

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Names to conjure with.

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I thought of this when I met this ’58 Buick at the Melbourne Australia Day show. The Limited. It said so right there on the side, but then it decided to show the limitations with 15…count’em…15 chrome slashes as trim. Four headlights, 160 square drawer-pulls on the grille, and two Vee-shaped gun sights.

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Then there are the tail fins. The last of the Buick verticals before they swooped in ’59, these are fins that are meant to last! They are chromed, armoured, and heavy enough to act as the vertical stabilisers for a bomber. Perhaps that is where they were intended to go before Fisher Body Division diverted production. I’m not so sure what the ports at the bottom of the fins really do but I am hoping that they are connected to the exhaust system and could be made to burn the legs of passers-by in car parks.

But back to names. I note that here in Australia we have followed overseas trends in naming cars – when the American industry named their cars after political positions we followed suit – we’ve had Holden Senators, Commodores, and Statesmen. Further up the chain we’ve had Toyota Tiaras, Crowns, Corollas, and Coronas, and Valiant Regals though I don’t think we quite got to an Imperial position. Ford never got into politics – they made things that were Fair – Lanes, Monts and such. I suppose if old Henry had lived longer and pressed his opinions harder we’d have had the Ford Fuhrer…

Sunny, Cherry, Swift, Mighty-Boy…I’m surprised we have not had a Hello Kitty or a Pokemon automotive name from the Japanese. Perhaps they are too concerned with Applause, Legrande, Accord, Harmony, and Co-Prosperity Sphere to bother with the cartoon characters. I am still waiting for a Honda Hentai. Or a Mitsubishi Musashi.

Of course some names were going to fail right from the start. We all saw that. The tiny FIAT design with the plexiglass dome that was meant for the German Autobahn market was going to be a difficult sell at the best of times but when they christened it the FIAT Fahrt Bubble we know there were going to be a lot on the inventory at the end of the year.

I admit I was rather taken with the Skoda fire engine known as the Stodola Pumper and of course who could forget the Alfa Romeo Intensosuperbainfuriososexissimohotchamama. It was one of the few motor cars with a name plate that extended so far behind it that it required a red flag tied to it to warn cyclists.

I’m afraid that the naming game has rather slowed in the last few years with the advent of letter and number codes instead of proper words. . We have enough X’s, S’s, L’s and E’s to last forever and of course there are i’s attached to indicate that there is a digital dash and an MP4 player installed. Not many of the numbers really mean anything though, as the idea of brake horsepower has been converted to Kilowatts and this is nowhere near as romantic. Rampant horses look better as hood ornaments than small electrical equations, no matter what the mathematicians might think. Mind you, if you could get a chromed figure of a rampant mathematician…


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