5 Popular Cars And The Stories Behind Their Names

June 29, 2018


On the road


Harry Webber

Choosing a name for your car is no easy task - your car may look like a Belle but drive like a Bruce, or handle like a Rita but purr like a Leo. Getting it wrong and you’ll be destined to forever look at your car and think about what could have been. Oh the agony! I suppose this is why car manufacturers leave these kinds of momentous tasks to the minds of clever marketing teams, especially since they have the added pressure of knowing that a car will likely be rolled out in the millions.

Some cars flop like fish, others flourish and go on to become iconic pieces of human history. Either way, their names stick with them until the very end. Here are five famous cars and the stories behind their monikers.

The Ford Falcon

Classic Blue Ford Falcon
Source: iStock

From police cars to wagons to panel vans, we are all no doubt familiar with the classic Ford Falcon and its many incarnations. First manufactured in Australia in 1960, the title ‘Falcon’ was (depending on what you chose to believe) a contentious point back in Ford’s homeland, the United States.

It is said that in the late 1950’s both Chrysler and Ford were interested in ‘Falcon’ as a name for their new small cars, though in order to officially be the owner of the title, a company had to register the name. Legend has it that Ford pipped Chrysler by a mere 20 minutes to claim ‘Falcon’ for themselves. The other theory is that Henry Ford II called Chrysler boss Tex Colbert and asked for the name, with Colbert preferring the name ‘Valiant’ instead.


Red Hummer in car lot
‍Source: iStock

Have you heard the myth about Arnold Schwarzenegger seeing a group of US military vehicles driving past a movie set he was on in Oregon in the 90’s, and how the actor-turned-Governor fell in love with the car’s ‘balls’ and lobbied the Department of Defense to make them available to the public, just so he could have one?

Well apparently that is true, though it wasn’t the Kindergarten Cop who coined the name Hummer, it actually stems from the military nickname given to the car which was ‘Humvee.’ ‘Humvee’ is the colloquial acronym for High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle which was the official military name for the vehicle.

The Holden Torana

Holden Torana doing a burnout
‍Source: iStock

Known for its association with ‘hoon’ culture back in the 70’s, the Torana was something like the bad boy of the Holden family, and though they haven’t been manufactured here for nearly 40 years now, they hold a special place in the pool room of our hearts.

The ‘Torana’ takes its name from the Aboriginal word meaning ‘to fly’ and was one of four Holden cars to feature names from our Aboriginal culture, including the Monaro, Camira and the Maloo.


Black limo
‍Source: iStock

The good old Limousine (or year 12 formal shuttle bus) is known around the country as the mode of transport for VIPs in all their forms; we even have a Prime Ministerial limo to ferry our number one pollies from Canberra to Kirribilli.

As patriotic and extravagant as that may sound, the name ‘Limousine’ was born out of a sparsely populated region in central France called Limousin, where the locals in the area had been wearing distinct cloaks for hundreds of years. These cloaks physically resembled the covered compartment where the chauffeur would sit in the car, separated from the passengers.


Black Tesla Model S on the road
‍Source: iStock

Why did Elon Musk name his company and their cars after Serbian-American inventor Nikola Tesla? Actually, Elon Musk didn’t name the car or company. The name came from founders Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning (there wasn’t a whiff of Musk until a few months after the name).

Apparently while on holiday at Disneyland, Eberhard came up with the name after much deliberation. They didn’t want anything too ‘eco heavy’ so words like ‘green’ or ‘leaf’ were out, but also nothing too ‘engineer heavy’ either, so words like ‘volt’ or ‘bolt’ were out also. When he thought of ‘Tesla’ he tested it on his girlfriend who gave it the thumbs up, and the name has stuck from that day on.

Harry Webber

Sydney-based writer and contributor to the Smith's Lawyers blog


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