When it comes to naming cars, manufacturers seek their inspiration from all corners of the world including historic figures, Greek goddesses, planets and poetry. But some of the most popular names are those which come from the animal kingdom, ranging from powerful vicious creatures (“jaguar”), right down to rather harmless little critters (“beetle”.) The chosen names are supposed to capture the essence of these vehicles, and demonstrate the car’s “inner spirit”, but whether this is always the case is certainly up for debate. Here we take a look at some of the favourite animal-named automobiles.
Engines that purr…
Starting with the big cats, there’s the elegant yet vicious Jaguar, the out-growth of SS Cars (formerly Swallow Sidecars), the Mercury Cougar (which famously had models holdings big cats on leashes in its ads), the Buick Wildcat (which featured its own unique emblem of the head of a wildcat), and then the Chevrolet Cheetah, a rare 1960s high-performance sports car. At a push, there’s also the Buick LeSabre, the full-size luxury car made by the Buick division of General Motors. Sticking with the safari theme, there’s the Gazelle Singer (a name used for two generations of vehicles from British manufacturer, the Rootes Group), the Chevrolet Impala (which derives its name from the South African antelope), and heavy-duty truck, the Chevrolete Bison. It’s not quite “safari”, but we can’t, of course, forget the Fiat Panda, the nippy city car from the Italian manufacturer.
Moving on to reptiles, there’s the Shelby-Ford Cobra, a British sports car with an American-engine, the Dodge Viper (the V10-powered sports car, manufactured by the Dodge division of Chrysler), and also the Ford Raptor, designed for off-road use (just like its scaly name-sake).
Heading under the waves, there’s the graceful Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray (a privately funded concept car), the Plymouth Barracuda (a two-door car manufactured by the Chrysler corporation which finally got stylish in the seventies), and the AMC Marlin, a mid-sized fastback car made in the US.
Taking to the skies there’s the Nissan Bluebird (one of the longest-running name-plates from a Japanese car-maker), the compact Studebaker Lark (which sold in far greater volume that the contemporary Hawk), and the sporty Kissel White Eagle.
If you’re looking for wildlife that’s a little more British, there’s the Audi Fox (a compact executive car from the German manufacturer), the Triumph Stag (a British car designed to compete with the Mercedes-Benz SL class models), the sub-compact Volkswagen Rabbit, and the full size pick-up which is not afraid of head-on collision like the big-horned sheep that it’s named after, the Dodge Ram, manufactured by the Chrysler group.
Car-makers have, over the years, been keen to include all creatures great and small when choosing their names, giving rise to the compact Nissan / Datsun Honey Bee (which remains in production today for the African and American markets), the Dodge Super Bee (a limited production muscle car), the Hudson Wasp (available in two-door and four-door sedan, convertible and two-door hard-top), the Porsche Spyder 550 /1500RS (also known as the “giant killer”) – and, of course, the ever-loveable Volkswagen Beetle.
Last but not least, there’s a host of cars which have names with an equine twist. These cars which are viewed as being light, fast and beautiful to look at, include the Ford Bronco (the sporty utility vehicle thrust into the limelight by O J Simpson), and then of course the Ford Pinto, named after the distinctly coloured horse, but which courted ongoing media controversy and legal issues over its safety features. Finally, one of the best names in history must surely be the Ford Mustang, the great-looking car named after the great-looking horse.