9 nameplates used across multiple marques
Even back in the good ol’ days when a car’s alphanumeric badging actually told your what was going on under the hood, we preferred when cars had actual names like Eldorado and Falcon. Style and soul are important, and a name is part of that identity. Our favorite monikers evoke a feeling that matches the car, so once a brand has staked its claim to a good one, it resonates with the public and has equity. Here are nine examples of names that were good enough that at least two brands made use of them.
This is the second time we’ve broached this topic, which we first explored two years ago. There are bound to be more. If we’ve forgotten your favorite, chime in with a comment.
While GM’s other brands got companion brands to widen their appeal starting in 1929, (Cadillac-Lasalle, Buick-Marquette, Oakland-Pontiac, and Oldsmobile-Viking) Chevrolet instead created new models to cover more ground. In 1933 the car formerly known as Confederate became Eagle, the premiere Chevrolet model, above the slightly shorter and more affordable Chevrolet Mercury. By 1934, both names were replaced with Master and Standard.
AMC’s Eagle is a beloved precursor to the crossover. Like today’s crossovers, it’s a tall, all-wheel-drive wagon built on a car platform, but rather than the current trend of getting that height in a tall body, AMC chooses to lift a compact wagon. We’ll take ours with AMC’s stalwart 4.2-liter inline-six and wood paneling, please.
Diplomat was the top-of-the-line Opel when it was launched in 1964, serving as the most luxurious of the Kapitän, Admiral, and Diplomat line that shared sheetmetal. The handsome coupe, shown above, is a rarity, as most were four-door sedans. Just 347 of the coupes were built from 1965–1967, all of them equipped with a Chevy 327 V-8. It’s decidedly GM, and does look like it would fit in well with Oldsmobile’s lineup of the time.
Dodge’s Diplomat, in contrast, was classified as a mid-size by American car standards, despite being slightly larger than the Opel with the same name that came before. The Dodge sedans were a staple of U.S. law enforcement, and if you’re a fan of the Blues Brothers you’ve seen plenty of them. While the Bluesmobile was a 1974 Monaco, plenty of the pursuing police were in later mid-size and full-size cars, including Diplomats. They deserve better than winding up in a 50-car pileup, but as fans of the movie, there’s no greater sacrifice a car can make in the name of cinema.
Speaking of cars named for envoys, here’s the Rambler/AMC Ambassador. It was offered as a four-door sedan, wagon, or muscly coupe to suit all sorts of buyers. The coupes particularly, which were available in excellent colors and could be powered by potent V-8s, are criminally underappreciated.
Hindustan, an Indian carmaker, produced the Ambassador from 1958 until 2014. It was based on the Morris Oxford series III, which ended production in 1959. Some of the Indian-built cars were even imported to England where the car originated. We’ve never been to India, but we wonder if this is the subcontinent’s version of the VW Beetle.
A Sunday-comic superhero first, the name “Spirit’ was applied to AMC’s Gremlin replacement for 1979. AMC’s subcompact was available as a “sedan” that was really a hatchback and a rather handsome liftback, both of which were also sold as AMC Eagle when equipped with a transfer case and powered front axle. It’s unfortunate that these are such a rare sight, as the small, RWD cars seem like they’d be a lot of fun with AMC’s venerable inline-six or the 304 V-8, which was only available in 1979.
The Dodge Spirit shared its FWD platform with the last of the Chrysler LeBaron sedans. Unlike its Chrysler counterpart sold in America, the Shadow was offered with a high-output, 2.2-liter turbocharged DOHC four-cylinder that was good for 242 hp. That engine was only available in the R/T with a five-speed manual transmission and just 1208 total were built in 1991 and 1992, the only two years they were available in the United States. Shadow R/T did last a bit longer in Mexico, however, where it was marketed as a Chrysler. The R/T DOHC offered in Mexico had the same powerplant and was available in 1992 and 1993.
When Ford launched the Edsel brand in 1958, Citation was the flagship model. While the styling of the 1958 and 1959 models was controversial and likely spelled the end of the brand by the time the beautiful 1960 models were unveiled, at least the names of most of the Edsels lived on.
Chevrolet picked up the Edsel scraps when it named its first front-wheel-drive car “Citation.” It took over the showroom real estate left vacant by the departure of the RWD Nova. While the Citation never had the power to live up to the Nova’s reputation, it did offer three body styles and the promise of decent fuel economy right when consumers needed it. Chevy sold more than 800,000 1980 Citations after getting an early release in April of 1979.
Edsel’s mid-tier trim for its longroof people-mover was the Villager, it was also the only wagon trim to survive past 1958 as both the entry-level Roundup and more luxurious Bermuda were both axed by 1959.
Mercury looked back into the Ford company’s back catalog of names for its rebadged Nissan Quest minivan and found Villager, still the perfect call for a vehicle that can move half a town in one trip.
Sharing the 124-inch wheelbase with the range-topping Citation, the Corsair was the other big Edsel. It lasted just two years and didn’t see 1960, the final year of Edsel production. The 1959 model, pictured above, toned down the prominent vertical center portion of the grille and added some sleek body lines and Atomic Age trim. Not bad at all.
Lincoln revived the Corsair moniker for its compact crossover that replaced the MKC. Definitely an improvement in our book.
Along with the Villager wagon, Ranger survived into the 1960 model year. It was the entry-level Edsel model and rode on a shorter wheelbase than the Corsair or Citation.
Ranger was first an appearance package on full-size pickups before becoming the outright name of Ford’s compact and now mid-size pickup. In truth, they’re not too far off in size from the ’60s F-100s that originally wore the name.
One step up the rung from the base model Ranger was the Edsel Pacer. It rode on the Ranger’s 118-inch-wheelbase chassis and offered the same sportier looks of the smaller model, including the convertible, as shown above, and the sleek two-door hardtop.
Of course, when we think Pacer, only one car comes to mind, a very particular AMC compact from Wayne’s World, the Mirthmobile.
We admit that this list is far from complete (we were going to have seven in this list but then we fell into the Edsel rabbit hole) so let us know your reincarnated car names in the comments.