What’s In A Label: Why We Name Cars and What Inspires Us
What’s in a name? Whether it’s family ties, celebrities we adore or inspirational messages like Hope and Faith, what we choose to name individuals who are important to us, like our children and pets, always have some underlying reason behind them. The names we give our vehicles are no different, and although only a small fraction of 21st Century drivers will admit to naming their cars, the phenomenon has gone on for decades. So what is it that fuels us to name our precious automobiles? And more importantly, what factors go into choosing the perfect hot rod name?
A couple weekends ago, I found myself trapped in my house battling yet another Colorado snow storm and pondering what to do with my afternoon. With a shelf full of car movies, I scanned through my options and decided on the more modern version of Gone In 60 Seconds.
While I’ve seen this classic movie more times than I can count, it never fails to be a staple in my ever evolving repertoire of movies to see.
Thanks to the gearhead blood that I was blessed with from birth, Gone In 60 Seconds has always hit a strong cord with me. Not only does the movie feature top-notch actors and impressive cars that many of us can only dream about, it also plays into our wild sides with car chases, vehicle theft and all around good tom-foolery. But the one thing that has stuck in my mind above all that is that notorious list of car names.
I consider myself one of the lucky few. Not only do I share a name with one of the “leading ladies” in the modern version of the film, I also share a name with one of the more classic choices from the 1974 version of the Hollywood hit. And although neither of these cars would be my first choice if I had to purchase one, I hold the honor of sharing such an iconic role, if you will, dear to my heart.
The Car Naming Phenomenon
No one quite knows where the idea of naming cars came from, but the truth is, many of us do it. And this isn’t just a trend among gearheads, either. Even your neighbor with the run-down Miata probably has a name or two for his clunker. But what’s the point of naming an inanimate object?
Well, for most of us, each of our vehicles has a unique personality. (I don’t have to explain this to most of you but if you haven’t noticed your car’s distinctive quirks, you haven’t been paying enough attention).
Now, for something with a personality, putting a name to it is only natural. Not doing so is like referring to your pet as Dog or Cat, and even those name tags have reasons behind them. So, for those drivers who love their cars, or love to hate them, it’s only second nature to attach a label to their vehicle.
According to GoCarShare.com, naming a vehicle might also have ties to insurance premiums and driving records. According to this theory, individuals who name cars in-turn drive better since the name shows more attachment to the vehicle.
While we can’t say this is the primary reason behind naming a vehicle, if staying out of accidents and getting a better insurance rate comes with it, we’re all for it!
What’s In a Name?
Growing up in the car world, the rule of thumb was to always use females’ names. Whether this was because female names go better with varying body lines and curves, or if it was because the car industry is more prevalently male, I don’t know, but naming a car something like Chuck or Jerry wasn’t exactly talked about.
Thus, even as a female driver, all of my vehicles have had various forms of female names, from Big Bertha to Elexa.
According to a study by the United Kingdom’s National Car Parks (NCP) we looked at late in 2011, on top of primarily female names, many drivers choose celebrity and cartoon names. Some even find inspiration for their vehicles’ names at work, naming their cars after coworkers.
Other common ways of naming vehicles we’ve seen at car shows and across the internet include alliteration, or using the same sound for the start of the car’s name as its make or model, like Dolly Deuce Coupe or Francis Ford. We’ve also seen the use of hallmark names from the era of the vehicle, like Betty, Ruby, Trixy or Candy, just like World War II pilots used for their planes.
If all else fails and you’re completely stumped on what to name your vehicle, there are sources like Confused.com’s Car Name Generator, which takes into consideration your car’s color, age, type and assigned gender before offering suggestions for good names.
While everyone has their own ideas on what and how to name a car, some choices are more well-known than others, whether they’re because of films or the names that celebrities have given their own vehicles.
Among the most well-known car names is none other than Christine, a 1958 Plymouth Fury that has a mind of its own in the 1983 horror thriller of the same name. Eleanor, the original ‘73 Mach 1 Mustang from Gone In 60 Seconds, or the later ‘67 GT 500, is also a well-known female-named vehicle among car and movie buffs alike.
On the celebrity side, names like Honeybee, Kinky Kylie and Bloody Mary may ring a bell. These are the names of vehicles owned by Beyonce, Lady Gaga and Sebastian Vettel.
Whether you drive a ‘32 Ford, a Lincoln Zephyr, an iconic Woodie, or even a classic T-bird or Corvette, finding inspiration for your vehicle’s name is as simple as looking around you. If the car is your baby, Baby Girl may be a strong contender.
On the other hand, if the car is more mischievous, the name of a fiery redhead like Lucy may be a better choice. No matter what you decide, it’s all about considering the car’s many quirks and the names that would go best with them.
Now, I can’t see myself as a ‘99 Bentley Arnage or even a ’73 Cadillac Fleetwood, the two Gone In 60 Seconds cars I share a name with, but it’s still an honor to be part of the most notorious lists of car names out there. Let’s just hope if there’s another film made like this, they give the name Lindsey to a more fiery character, like that gorgeous ‘50 Mercury Custom in the 2000 production of the movie!