14 bands named for cars, car parts, or crash-test dummies

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Band names, like names of race horses and boats, often make no sense. Toad the Wet Sprocket, anyone? The Goo Goo Dolls? Limp Bizkit? Band names start to make more sense, however, when they’re named for stuff we love and relate to, like cars. Oooh, Galaxie 500—now that is a fine name for a band.

Here are 14 groups who rejected obscure references to stuff no one cares about and instead looked to the automobile for inspiration.

The Avantis

Like the car from which they took their name, the surf-rockin’ Avantis really only stuck around for 1963–64, before changing their name. Not to the Avanti IIs, sadly, but to Pat & Lolly Vegas, and later to Redbone.

Car Seat Headrest

This American indie rock band is still going strong, so a more apt name might be Active Headrest. Car Seat Headrest’s name comes from lead singer Will Toledo writing lyrics in the back seat of his car. Sadly, he missed a golden opportunity to call the band Won’t Toledo.

The Cars

The Boston rockers got together in 1976, and when it came time to name the band, they wanted something simple and timeless. In a 2018 Wall Street Journal interview, drummer David Robinson said the name was “meaningless and it conjured up nothing.” Just like seat time in a Mitsubishi Mirage.


Brothers Pete and Sam Loeffler formed their band in their parents’ Illinois garage in 1995. They loved cars, their dad loved Chevelles, so the name was a no-brainer. It’s still unclear whether or not they workshopped Chevette before making the final decision.

Crash Test Dummies

Once, there was this band who
Named themselves after one of those diagnostic dolls …

The Fabulous Thunderbirds

Since their founding in 1974, the bluesy Fabulous Thunderbirds have seen 28 different members come and go, the one constant being Kim Wilson, the lead vocalist. Surely they weren’t all fabulous, were they? Surely some were … square birds.

Galaxie 500

Not to be confused with the Canadian band of the same name, this Galaxie 500 was an American alt rock group of the late 1980s who named itself after a friend’s car. Good thing that person didn’t drive a Mazda Bongo Friendee.

The GTOs

This Los Angeles girl band only released a single album, 1969’s Permanent Damage. Originally called the Cherry Sisters, then Laurel Canyon Ballet Company, producer Frank Zappa finally dubbed them GTO, for Girls Together Outrageously. Girls Together Once seems more apt.

The Mustangs

The British blues rockers often refer to themselves as The Mustangs (UK), which is just like a Capri, but different.


The Texas metal band was originally called Gemini. Then they tried out Eternity. Then they discovered the Spanish word for “panther,” and that was that. We also would have accepted Mangusta or Vallelunga.

REO Speedwagon

We heard it from a friend who heard it from a friend who heard it from another that the members of REO Speedwagon met in 1966 on the campus of the University of Illinois. On the first day of his History of Transportation class, keyboardist Neal Doughty saw the name written on the blackboard, and it stuck. Just imagine—if he’d had Linguistics 101 that day, we’d be rocking out to Glottal Stop.

Relient K

These Ohio Christian rockers got together in high school in 1998 and named themselves for the guitarist’s car. To avoid copyright infringement, they spelled the model name wrong. The band is still going strong, which can’t be said for most of the 3.5 million Plymouth Reliants built from 1981 to 1989.

The Rivieras

These guys were big Buick fans, apparently. How else to explain the name they rode to 1960s success, along with the name they rode to much less success when they reunited back in 2000: Wildcat. C’mon, guys, how about a comeback tour as GNX for old time’s sake?

Trans Am

The pride of Bethesda, Trans Am has been producing primarily instrumental “post rock” since 1990. Scottish arts and culture site The Skinny says the band flits from “dischord-inspired guitar experiments to krautrock hypnotics; from hardcore-infused electro soundclashes to arch pop freakouts.” No tire-shredding V-8, then?





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