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The Ford Mainline and Other Regrettable Car Names

The right name for a car can make all the difference. Think of Mustang or Corvette. Here’s a list of car names that were either bad choices or became ones.



AMC Gremlin

Invented by pilot to explain inexplicable component failures,  Gremlins are imaginary creatures that are mischievous and mechanically oriented with an inclination to damage or dismantle machinery. So why would you want to name a car after them?



Dodge Swinger

The Dodge Swinger is a name that seems oh so creepy now, but really wasn’t at the time. Not only did Dodge offer this Dart offshoot but Polaroid was also selling a less-expensive version of its instant cameras as Swingers. There’s even a mop called a Swinger. So get your mind out of the gutter.

1971 Dart Swinger


Ford C-Max

Apparently Ford hired someone from a nutritional supplements company to name its vehicles. The C-Max was probably their first and last job for Ford.



Pontiac Aztek

We all know that the Pontiac Aztek is cosmetically challenged, didn’t sell well, and is pretty much considered a failure, but what’s the deal with the name? We also know the Aztecs were a civilization that flourished from the 14th to the 16th century in what’s now central Mexico, but what on Earth does that have to do with a Cross Over? (Nothing, even if you spell it differently).



Ford Probe

The car that almost became the Mustang, the only thing stopping it was the outrage among Mustang fans that there would ever be a front-wheel drive Mustang. Go to Plan B. Apparently in testing new names, the word Probe rated well in focus groups, except that “the name made women uncomfortable.” And Ford,  who did you think was going to buy these cars?



Chevy Nova

One of the most popular tales of a poorly named product is the Chevy Nova and its failure to sell in Spanish-speaking countries. By the way, the story is false.  Nova and No Va (doesn’t go) are pronounced differently in Spanish, and you wouldn’t use No Va to describe a car. On top of that the Mexican gas station chain Pemex sells Nova gasoline. And even if some non-Spanish speakers in Detroit made a naming mistake, the sales organizations in the Spanish countries could be quick to point out if there were a problem. Myth: Busted.



Ford Mainline

Back in the 1950s, each car brand had all sorts of sub-brands, especially the big sellers like Ford and Chevy.  From 1952 until 1956, the entry-level Ford brand product was the Mainline and it was available in coupe, sedan, and station wagon body styles.  It was replaced by the Ford Custom in 1957. Interestingly enough, the first written mention we could find of mainlining as the injection of a drug directly into a vein was 1955. Coincidence? I think not.



Ford Aspire

Not much to say here, other than I can’t imagine anyone aspiring to own this dreary built in South Korea by Kia and sold as a Ford subcompact. Perhaps the intention was to instill aspirations into the driver, like “I gotta get a better paying job so I don’t have to drive this piece of crap.”



Chevrolet Caprice

Introduced in 1965, the full-size Chevrolet Caprice quickly became America’s favorite car. Its name has become so ubiquitous that we no longer connect it with its meaning. Caprice is defined as “a sudden usually unpredictable condition, change, or series of changes.” Doesn’t sound like a car I’d want to be driving down the freeway.



Plymouth Reliant

Along with the Dodge Aries, the Plymouth Reliant was the first of Chrysler’s K Cars. The company was on the brink of extinction, it had launched a line of car prematurely, resulting in them becoming the most recalled in US history, an act then followed by the K car twins. So basically, if the car company is about to go out of business, its products suffer record-breaking defects, they launch a brand new, are you’re supposed to feel good about the product because it’s called Reliant? Weirdly, it worked, as Chrysler sold over a million of them. Go figure.





Chris Riley
About Chris Riley

I have been wrecking cars for as long as I've been driving them but I keep coming back for more. Two wheels or four, I'm all in. gives me a chance to give something back to the automobile community.

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