What’s in a name?

We all have owned cars that evoke memories. One mention of their names can flood our minds with images of happier times. But more often than you realize, car and truck names have meanings that their manufacturers never intended.

Cracking open the dictionary reveals what your car or truck’s name really means and their unintended consequences. Here is a sampling of past and present car names, their definition and the automaker that uses them.

Avalon: Celtic legend, the isle of the dead where King Arthur and other knights are taken after death. (Toyota)
Belvedere: A summer house or open-sided gallery positioned to command a fine view. (Plymouth)
Caprice: A sudden and unaccountable change in mood or behavior. (Chevrolet)
Cayman: or caiman, a Central and South American crocodile. (Porsche)
Charger: A large, flat platter. (Dodge)
Century: A period of 100 years. (Buick)
Citation: A quotation from or reference to a book or author. (Edsel, Chevrolet)
Civic: Relating to a city or town. (Honda)
Corsair: A privateer, especially one operating along the southern shore of the Mediterranean. (Kaiser-Frazer, Edsel)
Cooper: A person who makes or repairs casks or barrels. (Mini)
Corolla: The petals, or inner leaves, of a flower. (Toyota)
Coronet: A small, or simple, crown, especially worn by lesser royalty or nobles. (Dodge)
Cutlass: A short sword with a slightly curved bade. (Oldsmobile)
Electra: Greek mythological figure who persuaded her brother to kill their mother in revenge for the murder of their father. (Buick)
Equinox: the time or date at which the sun crosses the celestial equator and when day and night are of equal length. (Chevrolet)
Escalade: The scaling of fortified walls using ladders as a form of military attack. (Cadillac)
Eclipse: A sudden loss of power, prominence or significance. (Mitsubishi)
Fit: A seizure in which the victim loses consciousness. (Honda)
Golf: An outdoor game played on a large course with a small, hard ball and a set of clubs. (Volkswagen)
Gremlin: A mischievous sprite regarded as responsible for unexplained mechanical or electrical failures. (AMC)
Lancer: A soldier of a cavalry regiment armed with lances. (Dodge, Mitsubishi)
Lucerne: Another term for alfalfa. (Buick)
Magnum: A wine bottle twice the normal size, usually 1.5 liters. (Dodge)
Marathon: A long-distance running race, strictly one of 26 miles 385 yards. (Checker)
Marquis: A nobleman ranking above a count and below a duke. (Mercury)
Matrix: Womb, uterus. (Toyota)
Omni: In all ways or places. (Dodge)
Pacer: A competitor who sets the pace at the beginning of a race or competition. (AMC, Edsel)
Phantom: A figment of the imagination. (Rolls-Royce)
Sable: Another term for black. (Mercury)
Savoy: A cabbage of a hardy variety with densely wrinkled leaves. (Plymouth)
Touareg: A nomadic African tribe. (Volkswagen)
Tundra: A vast, flat, treeless Arctic region of Europe, Asia, and North America in which the subsoil is permanently frozen. (Toyota)
Vagabond: A vagrant. (Kaiser)
Vantage: A place or position affording a good view. (Aston Martin)
Venza: A close sound-alike to the Japanese word Benza, which means toilet seat. (Toyota)
Viper: a spiteful or treacherous person. (Dodge, SRT)
Wayfarer: A person who travels on foot. (Dodge)
Wrangler: A person who wrangles, or argues, especially in a contentious way. (Jeep)
Zephyr: A soft, gentle breeze. (Lincoln, Mercury)

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What’s in a name? Everything — and then some

Roger Allard had always dreamt of one day owning an English vintage automobile. One would do, to start with. Nothing too fancy, maybe in British Racing Green, his favorite color. But little did Roger know that, through strange twists of fate, he would soon be plunged into a whole lot more than he had bargained for.


This uncanny adventure began in the summer of 1995, when he and wife Rosemary were visiting England to attend car events and museums on the occasion of Roger’s 50th birthday. First stop: Bognor Regis, West Sussex, where with son Christien, they found themselves at a local concours checking out dad’s favorite wheels: the Austin-Healey.  Also showcased were Aston Martins, MG’s, Triumphs and other celebrated UK brands. Great stuff, but nothing buyable that day. So off they went. As they exited the field, Roger’s eye unexpectedly caught the one-word title of a book sitting on a display shelf: “ALLARD.” Interesting, he thought, same name as his, and a marque he had never heard of. On the cover was a photo of the Allard Motor Company’s J2X competition roadster. Said book was purchased, the first “tipping point” of our story.

The second such tipping point happened on the next day, while the family trio was at the Beaulieu National Motor Museum in the South of England, where Roger now hoped to spot his first Allard. Surprisingly, none was to be seen amid the impressive collection. On their way out, a disappointed Roger asked an old gardener if he knew where an Allard could be found. “But right here, sir,” said the gardener. As it turned out, the Museum had just received not one, but two Allards — a J2X and a Dragon — though not shown them yet to the public. The visitors were ushered back inside to a holding room where, low and behold, the Allards had been parked right next to … an Austin-Healey, Roger’s original dream car. Pictures were taken of the new subjects.

Over the following weeks, Roger became increasingly taken by the life of Sydney Allard, the creator of the car, an outside-the-box genius and speed-junky, who loved American V-8’s and narrowly escaped death more than once on the track. During WWII, he operated a large repair shop for army vehicles. When the conflict ended, loads of parts were left over from which he would assemble his unique motorcars. Many different road-friendly models followed, sold, or didn’t, as the case may be. Sydney Allard at the time was already, and unknowingly, the consummate hot rodder. Born in London, the “Guv’nor”, as he was known, launched his racing career in 1929 with a Morgan three-wheeler, which was subsequently converted to a four-wheel vehicle: the Allard Special. His greatest victories were a third position finish at the 24-Hours of the 1950 LeMans in an Allard J2; and a first overall in the Monte Carlo Rally of 1952 in an Allard P1.

Recognized for having introduced drag racing to the UK by building his own slingshots, Allard founded both the International Drag Festival and British Drag Racing Association. Risk was his fuel, which may be why Roger, himself a racer, judo champion, parachutist and shark diver, felt a special connection to his namesake: “You can only experience the full beauty of the canyon floor if you are near the edge,” he said.

The thought crossed Roger’s mind that it could be thrilling to own and, especially, drive an Allard. But where to find it. These are rare cars: some 1900 were made between 1936 and 1959; and his newfound predilection was for the J2X, of which only 83 were built. So he joined the Allard Owners Club and intensified his research. That same year, he was invited to speak in Los Angeles at a work-related conference of the International Association of Business Communicators. While in California, he looked up a chap who produced the car in kit form out of San Diego. The two men hit it off and Roger got the keys to his host’s J2X demonstrator sitting in the garage. Within minutes at the wheel, lightning struck: Roger was instantly, and irrevocably, smitten. The sound, the feel, the power of it all…. Oh, bliss!

A few weeks after returning home, he received a phone call from the man, now in failing health, who says he intends to sell out. If Roger can come up with the money — which he does — it’s all his. That includes the moulds and jigs stored in a Phoenix warehouse, which are subsequently packed into an eighteen-wheeler and schlepped back to Montreal. The following week, another call: this time, it’s from the manager of the warehouse saying that lightning—the real thing now— had hit the building, triggering a blaze that destroyed the entire structure and its contents. Were it not for the miraculous timing of that earlier retrieval operation, all of the Allard components would have otherwise been lost forever.

In honoring the legacy of Sydney Allard, Roger feels he’s given new life to a glorious competition roadster which can now be enjoyed by collectors, on or off the track. His corporate slogan says it all: Rarely Seen – Never Forgotten. Operations have been set up in Champlain (New York) for all vehicles sold in the U.S., and in Montreal for overseas exports. Production is capped at 100 vehicles per year to preserve exclusivity and ensure owners an appreciating value over time. He’s clear on one point: the J2X MkII is a professionally engineered automobile authenticated by the Allard Register, with a special serial number conferred upon each vehicle by this sanctioning body. From the first commemorative edition J2X delivered in November 2008 to this day, Roger has received numerous accolades — including by none other than Jay Leno — though his greatest satisfaction comes from the feedback of those who just love driving the modern J2X MkII.

Some car stories are rooted in legend or stem from odd beginnings. This one, in addition, seems to show no end in sight, which bodes well for the re-creator of the iconic Allard J2X.  Best news of all, though, is that through thick and thin on the edge of the cliff, Roger and Rosemary have stayed happily married for more than 43 years.  As the Chinese proverb says: May you live in interesting times!

For more info: allardj2x.com

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