What's in a name? Just ask the guy who slips the words "my Ferrari" into every third sentence. You have to call cars something to differentiate them from, say, loaves of bread. If you're German, this usually means assigning a specimen-collection tag, like E350. If you're American, you oversell: the Pontiac Parisienne, for example. Beyond just marking a product, a model name can make a marque; ask Acura what the Legend did for its brand. A name can also doom, like when Buick discovered Quebec buyers weren't keen on driving a LaCrosse, as it's local slang for self-gratification.
Certain poorly chosen model names are legendary. Ford, or more likely highly paid consultants, had romantic, interstellar intentions when they pulled the name Probe out of their, um, heads, but it instead only evoked the snap! of latex gloves and extraterrestrial incursions. We wonder whether naming committees actually bother vocalizing names -- try saying X6 xDrive35i five times fast. VW unleashed the Touareg, Tiguan, and Routan onto a public as unable to spell them as it is unlikely to grasp their cultural significance or -- more important -- care.
The most superb car names, however, are born in Japan. Automotive names for Japanese cars sold in Japan are expressed in Latin letters instead of Japanese characters -- a Toyota in Japan reads "Toyota" on the decklid. This is where the fun begins.
In producing cars for markets other than the U.S., Japanese manufacturers are often more concerned with "mouth feel" and what pleasant sound a certain combination of words or letters might make, discounting silly things such as grammar and relevance. The Mitsubishi Chariot Grandio Super Exceed, which you might expect to shatter the sound barrier, is, alas, better at hauling groceries. The innocent gutting of the English language involved in the following 10 vehicles is particularly close to our hearts.
Isuzu GIGA 20 Light Dump
If this monster of a cab-over diesel truck is what's required to handle Japan's average light dump, we live in fear of what Isuzu must have on hand to dispatch with the remains of a tonkatsu curry-eating contest. No word on whether Isuzu is working on a built-in methane-capture and subsequent gaseous-injection system.
Mazda Bongo/Bongo Friendee/Bongo Brawny
Mazda was eager to cash in on the Bongo's intrinsic cachet, having witnessed successful exploitation by Ricky Martin and the cheek-tastic Bongo jeans company. Mazda blessed the small-van-loving world with not just the standard Bongo but also a Bongo Friendee and Bongo Brawny. Any Bongo brawny enough to be used in a crash scene in Mad Max is good by us.
Honda Life Dunk
Ah, life, that enigmatic thing whose myriad mysteries are made flesh (or, more precisely, metal and squarish) by Honda. Attach a turbocharger (and optional four-wheel drive), and what you have is a slam dunk. Who knew that 62 horsepower and diminutive proportions were all it took to have it all figured out?
Mazda/Autozam Scrum Stand Off Truck
The Mazda/Autozam Scrum Stand Off would, were it sold in the U.S., feature brisk sales in Montana, Texas, and other areas with large concentrations of Minutemen. Don't let the fact that it features a 0.7-liter engine and provides as much resistance to high-powered rifle rounds as a Styrofoam cup keep it from filling the underground parking lot of your compound -- ATF agents will cower at the sight of "Stand Off" badges married with Yosemite Sam "Back Off" mud flaps.
Isuzu Mysterious Utility Wizard
Why be satisfied with a sport-utility vehicle when you can trade sport for intrigue and your vehicle for magic powers? Who wouldn't love to have a wizard on hand to conjure a perpetually full fuel tank and manifest a plague of locusts inside the BMW that just cut you off? Alas, those who have known the MU Wizard as the Isuzu Rodeo know it to exhibit as much magic talent as Criss Angel.
Nissan Elgrand Homy
Despite the Japanese cultural fascination with all things tribal, we doubt that the name Homy is a derivative of hominy or even as prosaic as home. This über-pimpin' van (we really do wish they sold it here -- a rear-wheel-drive luxury minivan!) is available in black, with an exceedingly blinged-out grille and chrome package, and that's the truth, homey.
Don't let awful food-court pizza sully your palate -- the Assystem was baked by a Swiss Sbarro, first name Franco, whose claim to fame includes replicas of the Ford GT40 and Mercedes 300SL. Given that the Swiss employ humor like ditch diggers wield electron-scanning microscopes, we're sure he's at a loss regarding the snickers that bathe this car at shows. Given free creative rein, Mr. Sbarro endowed the Assystem with rotational prowess that makes possible pirouettes, if, being Swiss, it can find its way out of neutral.
Daihatsu Charade Social Poze
It's a shame Japanese owners of the Charade Social Poze are unlikely to understand the amazing synergy of those three words, combining the irony, veracity, and naked sincerity of a Fellini film. One-and-a-half liters of economy-minded righteousness promise little and return fully on meekness, value, and total anonymity.
Yamaha Pantryboy Supreme
We assume Yamaha got its inspiration from the highbrow put-down "a jumped-up pantryboy who doesn't know his place." Nothing, after all, says supreme compact van awesomeness like British snobbery. Unsurprisingly, this runabout vanlet can be found rendered in the standard Japanese pastel color palette reserved for cute items such as Hello Kitty vibrators (they exist!) and musical toilet seats.
Mitsubishi MUM 500 Shall We Join Us?
That a question mark made it onto the trunk of a car is reason alone to celebrate; that it's the cap to a profoundly vexing statement is the whipped soy topping. You might have trouble joining yourself, or anyone else, within the odd confines of this quirky, three-cylinder computer mouse on wheels.
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