Double take: 7 cars with recycled nameplates
Cars should have names. They deserve them. Sure, 911, 308, and 507 conjure up exciting cars by using numbers, but names evoke the character of the car and inspire an emblem worthy of piercing the sheet metal. Think of the several iterations of a snake’s head used in the Mustang Cobra and Viper or the Espada’s name in script, incorporating a sword. The emblems, like the names, aren’t necessary, but give designers one more facet to add some flourishes of style and help make them unique.
It’s not always easy to name a vehicle. Once you think you have something perfect, you’ve got to check and see that there isn’t a car out there already using the name. Or maybe you don’t. We’ve found plenty of names that have been dropped by one automaker and picked up by another. Here are seven of them. If we forgot your favorite, let us know.
Chevrolet and Plymouth have both used the Suburban nameplate on wagons, with Plymouth using it on car-based long roofs starting in 1949 and, after a hiatus, on Fury wagons from 1968–78. The truck-based Chevrolet Suburban has been in production since 1935, making it the oldest automotive model still in production. The name was also applied to GMC’s version of the Chevrolet Cameo pickup.
Studebaker Commander and Jeep Commander
Jeep’s Grand-Cherokee-based three-row off-roader used the same name as Studebaker’s long-running model line. For even more SUV name sharing, a submodel of the Studebaker Commander was called Land Cruiser. Jeep’s Commander had all of the Grand Cherokee’s proven four-wheel-drive powertrains, but its proportions were a bit ungainly and the third row was cramped. It only lasted for five years, and its role was filled by the Dodge Durango.
Even when Studebaker was gone, at least its model names lived on. Lots of them, it seems. This time, the Daytona, which was born as a sporty, bucket-seat option for the compact Lark shares its name with Dodge’s one-year-only winged car that took on NASCAR superspeedways in 1969 with its wind tunnel-tuned long nose and tall wing. In 1964, Studebaker’s entry level Larks were dubbed Challenger. Studebaker ended production in 1966, just four years before Dodge introduced its E-body Challenger.
Dodge Lancer and Mitsubishi Lancer
Dodge used the Lancer name on some of its late-’50s Coronets that employed two-tone paint options, tasteful chrome, eccentric fins, and bold taillights. They were fun, flashy, and everything that people love about ’50s American cars. Then there’s the 1961–62 Lancer, which had all the curves and fins of a fullsize car crammed onto a compact wheelbase. They’re gaudy, yet strangely appealing.
Mitsubishi’s Lancer, also sold as a captive import as the Dodge Colt, was the basis for the brand’s most beloved rally homologation, the Evolution. Lancer production ended in 2016, foreshadowing the discontinuation of many sedans across the industry, and left Mitsubishi with a crossover-heavy lineup in the U.S.
Muntz Jet and Hudson Jet
Unlike most of the cars we found that shared a name, these two were built concurrently and began production within years of each other, with Muntz using the moniker for its sleek, hand-built fiberglass convertibles beginning in 1951. Hudson used the name in 1953 and ’54, and you wouldn’t confuse the two cars, as the Hudson was a dowdy sedan that doesn’t seem worthy of such a cool name. Come to think of it, the Muntz didn’t seem very jet-like, either.
Renault Encore and Buick Encore
If we told you the designer of the AMC Javelin collaborated with the man who penned the Citroën SM and Alpine A310, you might expect something memorable as the result. Instead, we got the Renault Encore, a totally ordinary three-box car that was sort of cool in GTA trim, yet otherwise unremarkable. It sold well for AMC and Renault but didn’t get an encore of its own, as Chrysler’s purchase of AMC meant the Dodge Shadow already occupied that place in the market.
Like the Renault, Buick’s Encore is powered by a variety of four-cylinder engines and isn’t terribly remarkable either. It was one of the first entrants in the premium compact CUV segment and is the brand’s best-selling model in North America, making up half of its total sales.
Oldsmobile Fiesta and Ford Fiesta
Oldsmobile applied the Fiesta badge to a number of wagons over the years, and some of the hardtop varieties were striking. We suppose any vehicle with room for plenty of passengers that also happens to have a tailgate provides the right conditions for a fiesta to break out, but what about Ford’s subcompact hatch? There wasn’t anything to celebrate there until the ST debuted, and then Ford pulled the plug on us. Party pooper.