Automobile names are important to car manufacturers who often assign models with names that intrigue or arouse our sense of adventure and excitement. What bold driver wouldn’t want to be seen trekking through the rugged wilderness in a Ford Explorer, Toyota Land Cruiser, or Nissan Pathfinder?
Some drivers probably select specific models according to his or her profession. Can’t you see an astronomer behind the wheel of a Mitsubishi Eclipse or an optometrist in a Ford Focus? What proctologist could resist parking a Ford Probe outside the surgery?
And you know if Captain Kirk needed ground transportation, he’d expect a Volkswagen Transporter to be waiting when he beamed down. As for the infamous Heidi Fleiss, she must have been tempted to treat her “girls” to a fleet of Escorts.
Were they alive today, some historical figures might have chosen their car by name, too: Harry Houdini would drive a Ford Escape, while Mozart would prefer to maneuver the streets of Vienna in a Hyundai Sonata. Sir Edmund Hillary would feel right at home climbing into an old Mercury Mountaineer but would avoid the Chevy Avalanche. And British adventurer Percy Fawcett, lost while exploring the Amazon, would appreciate the benefits of a Jeep Compass.
Over the years, some automobiles have adopted names from the animal kingdom – the Mercury Cougar, Dodge Ram, and VW Beetle. Ford especially loved horse names producing the Mustang, Bronco, and Pinto. Wisely, they never produced a Ford Gelding – probably a little too Freudian for young male drivers.
Speaking of which, I’ve often wondered about the fate of my first American car, a Chevy Chevette. It wasn’t exactly a vehicle to worship as it rattled along the Interstate in the 80s powered by an engine that roared like an electric toothbrush. I suspect by now it’s been melted down and recycled into a faster and more graceful vehicle, such as the one my neighbor owns …… a John Deere.
Nick Thomas teaches at Auburn University at Montgomery, Ala., and has written features, columns, and interviews for numerous magazines and newspapers. See GetNickT.org.