16 June 2017

Answer of the Week: And the dumbest car name is … Gus?

We wondered—for about nanosecond—if we should risk asking our Facebook fans, “What’s the dumbest car name?” We love all cars, so why invite the world to take aim at the less fortunate, especially when those unlucky cars didn’t have a choice in the matter?

But then we considered the comedic possibilities, posted the question, and smiled as the answers rolled in.

We’d like to believe that most automakers put a lot of thought into naming a car before it reaches the “let’s do this” stage. Certainly Renault had good reasons for naming its little roadster the Wind. Maybe the car flies like the wind, or it accelerates so quickly it’s as if the wind is at your back. On the other hand, what happens if you accidently break a little Wind? Do you blame it on the dog?

Nissan likely felt safe choosing a straight-forward name for its comfy, extended-length camper van. Unfortunately, Homy Super Long sounds more like a rap artist than a vehicle. And good luck finding a teenage boy who can say it with a straight face.

And then there’s Isuzu, which actually produced something called the Light Dump. Neglecting to add the word “truck” at the end was a bit of a misstep, but hey, it could have been worse. At least Isuzu didn’t make a Big version.

Of the dozens of “dumb names” you nominated, none was more popular (unpopular?) than the Ford Probe. While we can appreciate that Ford was likely attempting to give its sport coupe a high-tech, space-age name, the Probe became the butt of jokes instead. “I love Ford,” Felicia Stelpflug wrote, “but I don’t know what they were thinking when they named a car Probe. What is it probing?” Patrick Whitton suggested the car “was supposed to be the next-generation Mustang and buyers hated it, so the designers got the probe.” Carl Landkammer wondered if perhaps “a proctologist won a car-naming contest.”

The poor AMC Gremlin was given a name that most people use to describe those head-splitting car problems no one can ever seem to figure out. Stephen Renton Emsley sarcastically applauded the choice as “marketing genius,” but Bruce Morgan reasoned, “You can’t say the name wasn’t accurate.”

Many of you selected Yugo … as in, “Yugo nowhere.” And even though Dusty Kuebler pointed out that “the name is derived from Yugoslavia, the nation in which they were produced,” few were swayed. “If you had one,” Jorel Staub wrote, “you no go.” Actually, that’s exactly what many of you said about the Chevrolet Nova, a name that translates to “no go” (or something similar) in Spanish. Juan Carlos explained that a Nova is also “a star that shows a sudden, large increase in brightness and then slowly returns to its original state over a few months.” While that definition may be an improvement, do you really want a car that shines for only a few months before it flames out?

As if we haven’t picked on Isuzu enough already (who can forget the Light Dump?), Loyd Bell nominated the P’up. “I know the name is short for ‘pickup’… but it didn’t have a lot of bark or bite.” Ashley Thompson also nominated an Isuzu, explaining that the name “Mysterious Utility Wizard” is a perfect example of “what happens when a direct Japanese-to-English translation goes horribly wrong!” Paul Nolte couldn’t take it anymore. “Japanese names don’t count,” he wrote. “We’d be here all week!”

John Pollick said plenty without naming a specific model: “I’ve always thought that vehicles with just a letter and some numbers were dumb.” Chris Weber agreed, calling out “the interchangeable, nondescript numeral designations most often used by today’s foreign car manufacturers.”

Daniel Laigh Shafer nominated LTD, complaining that the name is “supposed to be a shortened version of ‘limited’ … except they were all mass produced.” Doug McWhirter concurred, but for a different reason: “For me, LTD meant Long Term Debt.”

Also high on the list of dumb car names were Pacer, Prius, Pinto, Aztek, Le Car, Intrigue, Cruze, and Cube. Matthew Spearman nominated the Chevrolet Citation: “You get a citation for impeding traffic.” And Pete Meyer said of the Ford Aspire, “Does it aspire to be reliable transportation? Or something more sporty?”

The last word goes to AJ Katinsky, whose interpretation of the question still has us chuckling. “Gus. Gus is the dumbest car name. Who names their car anyway?”

34 Reader Comments

  • 1
    RDW Michigan June 21, 2017 at 15:28
    I believe the "Nova is Spanish for 'no go'" story is an urban legend.
  • 2
    Kurt Fenton,MI June 21, 2017 at 15:37
    Worst is Subaru Justy
  • 3
    Stan CA June 21, 2017 at 16:34
    I always thought the name "Edsel" kinda summed up the car in general. And you couldn't dress it up.
  • 4
    scott Braintree, Ma June 21, 2017 at 16:44
    How about the Ford Aspire..........Was it was aspiring to become a real car :-)
  • 5
    A.Enthal Southern California June 21, 2017 at 16:51
    Plymouth Reliant needs to be on the list of dumb names. Aspire at least aspires to something, even if we don't know what. But worse than the Reliant is the Smart car, which was so dumb that Mercedes didn't even want anyone to know they were affiliated with it. You don't see either Reliants or Smarts around much now.
  • 6
    David Naplate, IL June 21, 2017 at 17:13
    Nissan Joke.....er, Juke......
  • 7
    KEN LICHTIG FL June 21, 2017 at 17:37
    Worst car name was Edsel.
  • 8
    David wisconsin June 21, 2017 at 17:44
    my Justy may be Rusty, but gosh, is it ever Trusty ! :D
  • 9
    Ted Ottawa, ON June 21, 2017 at 18:28
    RDW Google translate tells us that 'no go' in Spanish translates to 'not going'. Seems it is not an urban legend after all.
  • 10
    Marc Texas June 21, 2017 at 18:29
    I believe the name "Gremlin" was coined by the gurus that worked for Mary Wells Lawrence of WRG advertising. Wikipedia shows 60% of consumers under 35 liked the Gremlin, that's pretty good - but then again, Mary (a former mentor) was extraordinary: As founder, chairman, CEO and president of WRG, Ms. Lawrence was one of the most powerful women in the advertising industry. At age 40, she became the youngest person ever inducted into the Copywriters' Hall of Fame. By 1976, she was earning more than $300,000 a year, making her one of the highest-paid U.S. women executives. That year, WRG had billings of $187 million, making it the 15th-largest ad agency in the U.S. Its client roster included Procter & Gamble Co., Trans World Airlines, Miles Laboratories, Philip Morris, Bic Pen Corp., Ralston Purina Co., Midas Inc., White-Westinghouse Electric Co. and Sun Oil Co. Under her direction, WRG created now-famous advertising slogans, including, "I love New York," to encourage New York tourism; "Quality is job 1" for Ford Motor Co.; and "Try it, you'll like it" and "I can't believe I ate the whole thing" for Alka-Seltzer.
  • 11
    Steve Brantford, ON June 21, 2017 at 18:30
    I had a 1968 Epic, I think it was short for epidemic
  • 12
    Mike Michigan June 21, 2017 at 19:32
    Ford LTD stood for "Luxury Trim Decor". Chrysler has the copyrights to using LTD for "Limited".
  • 13
    Steve in PV Pleasant Valley, NY June 21, 2017 at 19:32
    What has always been a name you wish was not on the side of your vehicle appears on upscale Toyota pick-ups. Why in the world would you want the initials TRD on the side of your truck when that is one vowel away from sh*t or cr*p? Do you really want to drive a Toyota T*RD?
  • 14
    Darkride Vienna, OH June 21, 2017 at 20:19
    THE worst is KIA- Killed In Action
  • 15
    Phil Shanholtzer Poolesville, MD June 21, 2017 at 21:29
    The good old boys I worked with in Tennessee said LTD stood for "load of trash from Detroit." Accent was on the "De" in Detroit.
  • 16
    Jay Salser Garland, TX June 21, 2017 at 22:46
    How about the Nissan Murano--which is rather like "Marano" or Pig/Hog in Spanish?
  • 17
    Nolan O Pahud CA June 21, 2017 at 23:14
    A friend who worked for Mexicana Airlines had a Le Car. He changed it to read el Car. I still chuckle when I remember it. Great Mexican sense of humor.
  • 18
    Don Fedak ON June 22, 2017 at 01:24
    I have a 1967 Cougar. So what is an XR-7?
  • 19
    GoodTimes Concord, MA June 22, 2017 at 14:11
    And no one has mentioned the Subaru Brat, brat being "an ill-mannered or misbehaved child."
  • 20
    DARYL JUDD SPOKANE June 22, 2017 at 15:45
    One I always thought was goofy was the Studebaker Dictator, not very cool in 1939 when Hitler was wreaking havoc in Europe.
  • 21
    Jim Ann Arbor MI June 22, 2017 at 18:04
    With its old individual die-cast letters, my Mercury Capri became a Crapi
  • 22
    Kemper Hills Martinez CA June 22, 2017 at 18:55
    Going back to pre-war days, there was the Studebaker Dictator. And more recently, the Toyota Starlet. And I really dislike all those made-up names, like Sentra.
  • 23
    NovaResource.org Cyberspace June 22, 2017 at 07:48
    ARRRGH!!!! Stop perpetuating a myth! Nova doesn't mean "No Go" in Spanish. At least not to people that actually know Spanish. Educate yourself: http://www.snopes.com/business/misxlate/nova.asp First of all, the phrase “no va” (literally “doesn’t go”) and the word “nova” are distinct entities with different pronunciations in Spanish: the former is two words and is pronounced with the accent on the second word; the latter is one word with the accent on the first syllable. Assuming that Spanish speakers would naturally see the word “nova” as equivalent to the phrase “no va” and think “Hey, this car doesn’t go!” is akin to assuming that English speakers would spurn a dinette set sold under the name Notable because nobody wants a dinette set that doesn’t include a table. Although “no va” can be literally translated as “no go,” it would be a curious locution for a speaker of Spanish to use in reference to a car. Just as an English speaker would describe a broken-down car by saying that it “doesn’t run” rather than it “doesn’t go,” so a Spanish speaker would refer to a malfunctioning automobile by saying “no marcha” or “no funciona” or “no camina” rather than “no va.” Pemex (the Mexican government-owned oil monopoly) sold (and still sells) gasoline in Mexico under the name “Nova.” If Mexicans were going to associate anything with the Chevrolet Nova based on its name, it would probably be this gasoline. In any case, if Mexicans had no compunctions about filling the tanks of their cars with a type of gasoline whose name advertised that it “didn’t go,” why would they reject a similarly-named automobile?
  • 24
    Erik S. McLean, VA June 22, 2017 at 08:43
    One Word: Probe
  • 25
    Geoff Maguire California June 22, 2017 at 20:58
    Nova or No Va literally translate in Spanish means "not going" although I would still vote for "Humber Super Snipe"
  • 26
    JK North Carolina June 22, 2017 at 10:19
    Subaru BRAT
  • 27
    Dennis CO June 22, 2017 at 10:19
    The TRD on Toyota trucks just stinks.
  • 28
    John Halsey Macomb, MI June 22, 2017 at 10:21
    I always thought one of the dumbest names was the Chevrolet Celebrity. I cannot imagine a single celebrity ever being seen in one.
  • 29
    David Zipkin Bay Shore, NY June 22, 2017 at 10:35
    I think the most humorous car name would be in the comparison between the Hillman Avenger sold in Britain and the Plymouth Cricket as sold in the USA. Was it a cute bug here and something to be feared there?
  • 30
    Mordechai Dessaur Herzlia, Israel June 22, 2017 at 00:10
    What about Nissan Juke, or Qasqai,
  • 31
    Jim B DeLand, Fl June 22, 2017 at 12:38
    Volkswagen had a car called the "Thing". I guess they could not think of a more descriptive name.
  • 32
    SK SoCal June 22, 2017 at 00:43
    "....Pacer, Prius, Pinto, Aztek, LeCar, Intrigue, Cruze, Cube...." These have nothing to do with names, and everything to do with social perceptions by a certain demographic and cars they deem "out". It's just like the lame "Worst Cars" lists that some "journalist", who knows beans from automobiles throws together on a regular basis. The list of "worst" cars intrinsic engineering and longevity isn't really considered, it's always a group of economy cars that are considered socially undesirable. Say- this list is pretty much the same! Let's skewer some others: Alfa Romeo Spider Humber Super Snipe Maserati Gallardo Porsche Boxster Mohs Ostentatienne Opera Sedan (a ringer for real aficionados to toss to the witless hoi polloi). I will give you "Probe"; Ford sometimes dropped the ball. Earlier, Ford rejected Utopian Turtletop for a new car, but ended up naming it Edsel.
  • 33
    Joel Cary, NC June 25, 2017 at 11:53
    How about the Toyota MR2? Who the heck names a car "Mister Two"? Giggle!!!!!
  • 34
    John V. Baton Rouge, LA June 27, 2017 at 21:55
    While learning some Mopar history, I breathed a sigh of relief when I found out that Plymouth *almost* named the Duster the "Beaver". This would have brought a whole new life to the phrase "You were a little hard on the Beaver last night!"

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