10 most awkward car names through history

“What’s in a name?” asked Juliet in Shakespeare’s tragedy Romeo and Juliet. Those are profound words but when selling a car, there is a lot to it. Name a car Vulcan and images of planes and Roman gods come to mind. Diablo, and you think of the devil in all his sordid glory. Even a name like Swift creates thoughts of something quick and speedy. Name it Cee’d and most will scratch their heads in confusion.

There have been some weird names for cars throughout their history. Here’s some of the funniest of the lot:

Isuzu Mysterious Utility Vehicle

The Isuzu Mysterious Utility Vehicle was first sold in 1989 (Image source: Creative Commons)

We all know that one person who has a tattoo in Chinese or Japanese that looks oh so cool, but means ‘water’ or ‘idiot’. Seems like Isuzu went the other way with its Mysterious Utility Vehicle. The name sounds really over the top even in their native tongue. Why they chose to name this mid-sized SUV something so peculiar is indeed a mystery. The manufacturer was smart enough to abbreviate this to MU in the next generation.

Honda Life Dunk/Honda That’s

A basketball themed car with this name would have made slightly more sense (Image source: Creative Commons)

Naming a car after what every living thing possesses until it dies, philosophical and kind of cool. Adding the ‘Dunk’ after turbocharging the kei car in question, now that’s just weird. Call it the Life Turbo, Life T, Life Extra, or even the Life +.

That’s quite a silly name (Image source: Creative Commons)

However, the Life Dunk is nothing compared to its kei car sibling from the same stables, the Honda That’s. Now come on Honda, at least try! Fortunately, both cars have been phased out and replaced by the Honda Zest, a decent name for a decent car.

Mitsubishi Lettuce

Bring home the bacon, in a tomato red Lettuce (Image source: Creative Commons)

The sixth generation of the Mitsubishi Minica, sold as a three-door and five-door kei car, had a special variant with a single door on the right side and two doors on the passenger side. They named it the Lettuce. Wasn’t there a more boring vegetable name they could have used? Cabbage or peas?

Shogun-Commercial-SWB (1)
Despite the awkward name, the Pajero is the most successful vehicle to race in the dreaded Dakar Rally (Image source: Mitsubishi)

It wasn’t the first time or the last that the Japanese marque produced a car with a cringe worthy name. The Pajero SUV had to be renamed for Spanish speaking markets to the Montero as the original name is a common swear word meaning ‘wanker’ or ‘loser’.

Mazda Laputa

Fortunately, this car was sold only in Japan (Image source: Creative Commons)

A cross between an SUV and a hatchback, this kei car (Am I the only one sensing a pattern?) was a rebadged Suzuki Kei. Sold from 1999 to 2006, this car’s name was derived from Gulliver’s Travels though in Spanish, the literal translation is ‘the whore’.

Ford Probe

A Mustang replacement without the iconic V8 engine was bound to fail (Image source: (Creative Commons)

Meant to replace the fuel guzzling Mustang, Ford had hoped to capture some of the future in the Probe’s name. However, whether one blames the internet or was born with a dirty mind, the only thing most people think of is an alien anal probe. This classy looking hatchback from 1989 shared its platform and engine with the Mazda MX-6.

Volkswagen Thing

Not to be confused with The Thing from Fantastic Four, or the other thing (Image source: Volkswagen)

Germans aren’t really known for their sense of humour. However, when they launched their convertible off-roader in the US back in 1972, they either ran out of ideas for names, or thought the Americans wouldn’t be able to pronounce a German name. So they named it the Thing. Originally made for the West German Army, the two-wheel drive off-roader was sold as the Kurierwagen in West Germany, the Trekker in the United Kingdom, the Safari in Mexico and South America, and Pescaccia in Italy.

Renault Le Car

“Le Car?! Si’l vous plait!” – nobody (Image source: Creative Commons)

The Renault 5 has gained a cult following as a hot hatch, particularly the Renault 5 Gordini and its turbocharged sibling. When the supermini was launched in the US, they named it Le Car, quite unimaginatively. Perhaps they assumed a French name for a French car would bring in a more sophisticated buyer.

Tata Zica

Tata Tiago
Tata changed the name of its premium hatchback before it went viral (Image source: Tata Motors)

Indian manufacturer and Jaguar Land Rover owner, Tata Motors was scheduled to launch its new hatchback, the Zica. They had promotions for the launch all over the world and yet were surprised when reception for the car was less than lukewarm. The outbreak of the Zika virus in South and Central America was the cause. Before it debuted officially at the 2016 Geneva Motor Show, Tata had the foresight to change its name to the Tiago.


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