Check out a few brief back stories behind some of the most famous names in classic automobiles and feel free to share those you’d like to see profiled in future installments in the comments section below.
When it comes to star-aligning good fortune and success, few stories in American automotive history play out better than that of the Corvette. And that includes how Chevrolet happened upon what to call the first mass produced, post-war American sports car.
As the story goes, after the naming process originally stymied GM executives a call was put out for suggestions that began with the letter “C.” Hundreds of names were submitted and considered, but the one that ultimately stuck came from Myron E. Scott, a man in GM’s public relations division.
According to the Corvette Hall of Fame website, Scott searched the “c” section of the dictionary until he stopped on the name of a small, fast and light attack ship first used by the French Navy in the 1670s. As a sleek and deadly ship that could run circles around larger carriers, destroyers and submarines, modern steel-hulled Corvettes gained renewed notoriety in WWII as escort/patrol ships and, thus, the name fit perfectly for a car originally targeted to appeal to America’s sizable population of male veterans.
Officially, the Ford Motor Company named the Mustang after the P-51 Mustang, a legendary WWII fighter plane. So what’s the deal with the horse emblem on the grille?
The most interesting (and far-fetched) explanation came just last year in a Southern Methodist University news release announcing a football rematch between the SMU Mustangs and the Michigan Wolverines. The game marked 50 years since the teams first met in Ann Arbor in 1963, the year the Ford Motor Company was set to release what would become its most popular car since the Model A.
According to the release, Ford President Lee Iacocca attended the original game while considering other names for the car — among them Cougar, Thunderbird II, T-Bird II, Torino, Turino, and T-5. Despite the Mustangs losing 27-16, Iacocca was supposedly so inspired by the flair exhibited by the undersized team that he swept into the locker room to let the dejected team know that he was going to name a car after them.
Then-head coach Hayden Fry (who also dubiously insisted that he bought the first Mustang to ever roll off the line) remembered the episode most vividly. But a later investigation by Automotive News reporter, Nick Bunkley, failed to uncover any evidence to corroborate the claim.
Originally designed as a competitor for the Ford Mustang in 1965, the Camaro was code named “Panther.” Chevrolet ultimately decided to stick with their string of successful “c-name” cars when it came unveiling this popular American classic.
Chevrolet Merchandising Manager, Bob Lund, and GM’s Vice President Ed Rollett are credited with coming up with the name, which they discovered in a 1936 copy of Heath’s French and English Dictionary. Meaning “friend and pal,” Camaro was deemed a perfect fit symbolizing the comradeship between a car and its owner.
First developed under the code name “E car” (experimental car) in 1955, the Ford Motor Company decided to go against Henry Ford’s wishes when they unveiled the supposedly advanced and much-hyped Edsel on “E-Day” in 1957. While cherished by collectors today, the car named in honor of Ford’s son has the dubious (and maybe a bit unfair) distinction of being a marketing case study in failure thanks to two years of hype, overpromising and under-delivering to the automotive-buying public and an unfortunate market downturn.