They may not all be pretty. They may not all be fast. They may not even fulfill the purpose for which they’re meant. These cars do, however, have some pretty awesome names. Keep reading for our best car names of all time.
13. Lotus Elite
The name of this light-as-air car elicits grace and precision. Designer Colin Chapman used his experience in the Royal Air Force to help create a car that, though not as powerful as the Maserati or Ferrari, was faster than its rivals. Lotus stood for “Lots of Trouble Usually Serious”—a fitting acronym for a fast coupé.
12. The Playboy
Which came first, you ask: The magazine or the car? Turns out it’s the car, according to Máté Petrány of Road & Track. The 1948 Playboy A48 Convertible was the design of the Playboy Automobile Company. Over 90 Playboy cars were built before the company’s assets were auctioned off in 1950. Not only is it one of the best car names, but Hugh Hefner certainly thought it was the best fit for his now infamous magazine.
In this video, David Kaplan, grandson of Playboy Automobile Company founder Louis Horwitz, says the Playboy convertible was unfortunately ahead of its time.
11. Dodge Omni GLH
The Omni GLH’s original name was actually “Coyote.” Designer Carroll Shelby didn’t think it was the greatest choice, preferring the acronym, which stood for “Goes Like Hell.” Shelby later created the GLHS—“Goes Like Hell Some more.” Shelby told Los Angeles Times reporter David Barry in 1987 that he wanted to make Chrysler’s “plug-ugliest” car stand up to the speed of a Porsche or Ferrari at an affordable price. It’s definitely not the best-looking car, but a name like “Goes Like Hell” has to be one of the best car names.
Check out this 1984 GLH commercial.
10. Alfa Romeo Disco Volante
Disco Volante means “flying saucer” in Italian, and as our mechanic Andrew pointed out, it’s fun to say! The spider was part of an experimental racecar series created between 1952 and 1953. Another spider in the series became known as “fianchi stretti” — Italian for “narrow hips.”
In this video, the Alfa Romeo C52 Disco Volante is on view at the Alfa Romeo Museum in Italy.
9. Mohs Safarikar
An exotic name for an equally exotic-looking car. One of our auto experts said, “You’ve got to see it to appreciate its… presence.” Although it looks more like a car you’d expect an Addams Family member to drive, the Safarikar was originally designed with the hope of hunting large game in the African Safari, according to an advertisement for the car sited in this Driving Line article by John McCabe.
The 1973 Safarikar in this video was restored to its original—shall we say, majestic?—form.
8. Le Car
Kind of makes you want to throw “Le” in front of everything, doesn’t it? In his Hemmings article about the Renault 5, Jeff Koch shares that the car was marketed in the U.S. as “Le Car” in 1976. Apparently it needed to be made clear that this small hatchback was French.
Le Car cruises through San Francisco in this commercial.
7. Subaru BRAT
The 1978 BRAT (Bi-drive Recreational All-terrain Transporter) had two rear-facing jump seats in back. Oddly enough, according to a Subaru advertisement sited in this Autoweek article by Jake Lingeman that shows off those back seats, the BRAT was an example of “civilized 4 wheel drive.” Can something called “brat” ever really be considered civilized?
6. Piaggio Ape
This Vespa-esque tricycle truck means “bee” in Italian. Helicopter innovator Corradino D’Ascanio designed the fuel-efficient delivery vehicle for zipping down tight streets. The Ape may not be quite as buzzy as its Vespa cousin, but it still has a clever name.
5. The Thing
Might sound like another Addams Family reference, but what’s truly scary about this car is its lack of safety (which Doug DeMuro experienced first-hand and details in his Autotrader column) for what was supposed to be a military vehicle in 1960s West Germany. The Volkswagen Thing might not exactly be battle ready, but its lacking name seems to fit its oddly cheery appearance.
4. AMC Gremlin
A name you probably won’t forget, “Gremlin,” is appropriate for a car CBS named number 10 on its list of world’s 15 ugliest cars. “Gremlin” is certainly an interesting choice for a car name considering that a gremlin is a mischievous creature responsible for an unexplained mechanical or electronic problem.
3. Plymouth Champ
Our mechanic Andrew described this little guy as an “underdog” car “likely to never be a champion.” Its name didn’t even last—it was eventually switched to “Colt by Plymouth,” according to Paul Niedermeyer of The Truth About Cars. In spite of not living up to it, The Champ is remembered for its endearing name.
The Champ is a total knockout however in this 1978 commercial.
2. Phantom Corsair
This ominously impressive car does have a ghostly pirate ship air as its name implies. The futuristic six-passenger car was the brainchild of Rust Heinz (yes, as in Heinz 57 Ketchup). The Corsair later became known as the “Flying Wombat,” after starring in Hollywood’s 1938 “The Young in Heart.”
1. Triumph Spitfire
To round out our list of the best car names of all time, here’s a spunky name that came from a British World War II fighter plane. How could a name like Spitfire not make this list?
Rick Harrison of “Pawn Stars” takes an Aztec yellow 1974 Triumph Spitfire 1500 for a ride.