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Auto manufacturers often name their cars strange things, though sometimes even they go a bit far by naming various cars in foreign languages or with extremely obscure or made-up words that would be the last thing to inspire thoughts of driving upon first hearing them, though admittedly they look like the final round of a spelling bee when compared to the pharmaceutical industry's product naming conventions. Here are a few examples.

  • The Chevrolet El Camino. "El Camino" is Spanish for "The Walk." I suspect that Chevrolet chose this name because it sounded cool in 1959 (the year the first El Camino was manufactured), although they don't appear to have researched the phrase until it was too late. Who'd drive a car called "The Walk?"
  • The Toyota Paseo. "Paseo" is a conjugation of the Spanish verb pasar, which also means "to walk." (There are a few different verbs for "walk" in Spanish.) This particular conjugation means "I walk." It may look like I'm driving a Japanese car, but in a distant reality that you can't see, I walk.
  • The Honda Fitta. The Fitta was released in Scandinavian countries by Honda, who were apparently unaware of its colloquial meaning in the area's native languages -- "fitta" is slang (in Swedish, Finnish, Danish, and Norwegian) for female genetalia. It was renamed Jazz after Honda caught on. from toalight
  • The Ford Prefect. This car was released only in the UK in 1939 and nobody knew what to make of it. Most assumed it was simply a misspelling of "Perfect." Perhaps Ford had meandered into a surrealist phase around the time this car was first released. If so, it didn't last long, and neither did the Prefect. "Prefect" does indeed seem to be an actual word, albeit obscure outside of the UK and Australia, meaning, basically, "hall monitor in primary school." "Ford Prefect" later came to be the name of a character in Douglas Adams' classic The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. from spiregrain and stupot
  • The Ford Pinto. The Spanish translation of "Pinto" is "I paint," or, apparently "paint horses." Perhaps it should've been called "Estallo," which means "I explode." A pinto is also a type of bean. The Ford Pinto was hardly bean-sized -- you could sail to Iceland in one. "Pinto" also means "small penis" in particular Brazilian dialects of Portuguese. from dido
  • The Austin Maxi was another British innovation, this one from the 1970s. What do you normally think of when you hear the word "maxi?"
  • The Mitsubishi Pajero. "Pajero" is apparently Mexican Spanish slang for "wanker." from vuo
  • Volvo is Latin for "I roll," though I'd be hard-pressed to find a country that would mistake the two, the Vatican notwithstanding. from 409
  • The Rolls Royce Silver Shadow, when translated into Japanese, apparently has a colloquial meaning of "pissing in the wind." from ponder
  • The Diahatsu Charade kind of speaks for itself -- it was by all accounts a service department bill on wheels. from ponder
  • The Diahatsu Naked is Diahatsu's newest addition (as of this writing in 2002) in a strangely monikered line of automobiles, available primarily in Japan and Australia. from sailorDR

NOTE: I originally listed the infamous Chevy Nova, but I was informed that this was an urban legend (although, Vauxhall came out with the Vauxhall Nova, but it wasn't marketed in any Spanish-speaking countries). Check with snopes.com -- it's listed there.

I'm sure I'm missing a few, so if you can recall any, /msg me or add your own writeup. Another note: I used the literal translations of whatever words I translated here, because I'm an uncultured American. Deal.

The Japanese are undoubtably the kings of strange car names. For some incomprehensible reason, even though Japan has about the worst TOEIC scores in, well, the world, they insist that all of their cars have English (or at least foreign) names. Over the last 30 years, they have perfected the Strange Car Name. A small scratch on the surface:

Daihatsu Applause.

Daihatsu Cube. Not a bad name, considering that this car is pretty much a box with wheels.

Daihatsu Move. I should hope so.

Daihatsu Naked. A mini-SUV ("one box") very popular among the ladies, who generally freak out when I tell then what it means.

Daihatsu Rugger. I guess the upholstery is a key sales point?

Honda Acty. At least they didn't call it "Seizey".

Honda Joy Machine. For a the slightest fraction of a second I had this confused with the Hitachi Magic Wand.

Honda Life. If you have 1,800,000 yen to spare, you too can get a Life!

Honda Mysterious Utility. Indeed.

Honda Stepwgn. "wgn" is pronounced "wagon", of course.

Honda Street. Where exactly are you supposed to drive a Street?

Honda That's. How can a relative pronoun be a name? (I think it might be a play on words for "zatsu", as in "zatsuyou" - capable of many different tasks.)

Mazda Bongo. Pretty hard to beat that. Har!

Mitsubishi Bravo Exceed. Car or giant robot?

Mitsubishi Canter Guts. A light freight truck.

Mitsubishi Delica. The name would be slightly less hilarious on a car that wasn't a turbocharged diesel, 4WD behemoth van, complete with a full-steel bumper / rambar that looks like it could give a brick wall a run for its money.

Mitsubishi Fighter Mignon. Some kind of play on words? Is this supposed to be the filet mignon of trucks or something? I don't think I need to mention that "mignon" means "dainty" in French. Oh, the woes of randomly combining foreign languages...

Mitsubishi Pajero. According to Mitsubishi, "Named after a mountain cat that inhabits the Patagonia plateau region in southern Argentina." Unfortunately, it's also a minimal pair for "Pakero", "one who masturbates". I think it was renamed to Montero or something for foreign markets, but they still make new Pajeros in Japan, including the Pajero Jr. and the Pajero Mini.

Mitsubishi Starion. According to rumour, was supposed to be "Stallion".

Mitsubishi Super Great FP-R Ultra-Economical Motorway Tractor. A very heavy freight truck. It had to be big to fit the name on it.

Mitsubishi Toppo. How many clowns will fit in the trunk?

Nissan Homy. I wouldn't try driving this through the 'hood.

Nissan Sunny. No, it's not solar powered...

Nissan Vanette. At least it is a minivan, so this kind of makes sense.

Suzuki Every.

Subaru Impreza Gravel Express. This mini-SUV wagon, well known for its offroad abilities, can now handle gravel!

Toyota Coaster. "To move without power", or "a defunct CD" - take your pick.

Toyota Comfort. Actually, it is pretty comfortable. If you've ever been to Japan, you've see this car -- it's the standard taxi. It's also the car you use to take your road test.

Toyota Picnic. A 7-passenger utility wagon... that's a damn big picnic. From the pamphlet: "When it comes to the cabin space, it's a joy for claustrophobic."

Toyota Starlet. A wannabe performer? (Actually, I have one, it's not too bad. Update: Before leaving Japan, I sold my Starlet. Three years of hard driving on a 1992 vehicle, with only a burnt-out headlight and one bad wheel bearing. Better than any north american car I have ever owned. What kept this out of the world market? Maybe the name.)

Yamaha Vino. A motor scooter. Do you have to get loaded to drive it?

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