Ford Probe

Brits of a certain age will remember the adverts featuring John Hurt bigging up a Probe – his husky tone somehow making it all sound so much worse. Designed as a replacement for the somewhat lovelier-named Capri, the Probe was actually pretty good, being voted US magazine Motor Trend’s ‘Car of the Year’ in 1993, but it was discontinued just four years later.


Nissan Cedric

Nissan Cedric by Mytho88

Asian manufacturers have a habit of coming up with some rather odd names for their American and European markets. The Cedric is one of the earliest examples of this trend, being built in 1960, and was apparently named after the main character in the novel Little Lord Fauntleroy. Righto, then. In spite of the name, the Cedric remained in production until 2004.

Volkswagen Sharan

VW Sharan - picture by Rudolf Stricker

It doesn’t matter how you tell us to pronounce it, it’s too late – Brits will always think of VW’s MPV as the ‘Sharon’. The name is apparently taken from the Persian language (rather than Essex), and in spite of it forever being associated in our minds with ‘Birds of a Feather’, the Sharan has been a hit since its inception in 1995, with 670,000 sold in its first 15 years.

Renault Wind

Renault Wind picture by CEFICEFI

What – I mean, what – were they thinking?  When Renault were naming their roadster (based on the equally-stupidly monikered Twingo) back in 2004, a quick call to their UK counterparts would have put the Renault marketing department straight.  After finally being introduced in 2010 the Wind lasted less than four years – whether this was simply down to its flatulent name is unclear. 

Peugeot Bipper Tepee

Peugeot Bipper - picture by Thomas Doerfer

Mon dieu – more French tomfoolery. As if the parent company’s name wasn’t odd enough, they decided to add not one but two silly names to their small MPV – which has, nevertheless, sold steadily across the Channel since its introduction in 2008.  Answers on a postcard, please, if you understand what they were going for with the word ‘bipper’.

Daihatsu Naked

Daihatsu Naked - picture by Tennen Gas

Oh dear, oh Lord, they really didn’t think this one through, did they. The idea is reasonable – displaying a car’s bolts and hinges to make it look rugged and utilitarian – but putting it on a weedy little city car and then giving it a sexy name that it singularly failed to live up to… unsurprisingly it was produced for less than five years.

Mitsubishi Toppo

Mitsubishi Toppo Guppy - picture by TTTNIS

Another corker from Japan, used on this small RV that is still being made today.  As if the word Toppo - a portmanteau meaning ‘lanky roof’, if you will -wasn’t dippy enough, there have been variants of the Toppo called the Guppy (presumably a lanky-roofed fish?) and the Toppo Big Joy, or BJ for short.  Words fail us.

Triumph Acclaim

Triumph Acclain - picture by Charles01

One in a long list of cars given nomenclature that was always likely to bite them on the behind, Triumph replaced their excellent, stylish Dolomite saloon in 1981 with this bland, boxy vehicle which certainly didn’t receive any acclaim on the design front. Just as well it wasn’t sold in Germany, where the name would roughly have translated as ‘sieg heil’.

Ford Ka

Ford Sport Ka - picture by Andrew Ogram

Amazingly the Ford Ka remains incredibly popular wherever it is sold, in spite of having a backside bigger than anything seen outside dancehall music and a name that sounds like something forced out by Michael Palin’s tongue-tied character in A Fish Called Wanda.  Apparently it’s supposed to be pronounced as in the word ‘cat’.  Yeah, whatever.